There’s truth and there’s alternative facts. That’s what they say. I keep finding things that make me wonder if I’m the only one who sees the world through alternative specs.
Only the other day I was asking myself if the BBC’s almost obsessive interest in the Darren Osborne trial was just a little bit more all-consuming than, say the coverage of the individuals responsible for last year’s spate of Islamic terrorism.
We heard all about Osborne’s fixation with alt-right internet sites - why, he may even have glanced at this one - and we listened to a multitude of theories about how he became radicalised. Speculations took in the BBC’s own “Three Girls” drama, the Manchester and London terrorist attacks, Britain First, and ended up at the doorstep of Tommy Robinson. (Some people still like to cite Melanie Phillips when deconstructing Anders Breivik’s motivation.)
I may be all wrong, please say so if you think I am, but I don’t recall anyone in the BBC or any of the other MSM holding back from calling the “Finsbury Park Terrorist Attack” a terrorist attack.
One thing I certainly don’t recall the BBC doing, is putting that particular vehicular attack down to mental health issues. It was always unequivocally described as far-right terrorism, and the matters of Darren Osborne’s criminal record and mental instability were played down to such an extent that many people seem to be unaware of them. Such issues only appeared on the news bulletins as an afterthought.
Compare that with the media's reflexive response to Islamist terrorism. Mental health issues are often the first port of call for analysts who are reluctant to point the finger at Islam.
So I wondered if I was really reading this, or dreaming it. It’s the Guardian, so what did I expect, but still. Someone by the name of Kamran Ahmed sees the world through a prism that is the exact polar opposite of my own prism. (I am quite happy to consider that I probably do see things through a prism)
Anyway, the author believes that the media has gone to considerable lengths to explain away Darren Osborne’s intended killing spree as the act of a jobless lone wolf rather than an act of terrorism. While the author recognises that there is a mental health factor in all violent acts, and who could disagree, he (or she) concludes:
“The issue here is not the presence or absence of mental illness, but the way that these soul-destroying crimes are differently reported. We know that lone actors committing terrorist atrocities are more likely to have a mental illness than those acting in groups. Omar Mateen who carried out the horrendous attack in Orlando had the profile of an unstable “lone wolf” with a history of domestic abuse and probable narcissistic traits, but was swiftly labelled a terrorist. These discrepancies only fuel Islamophobia further, insidiously promoting division.”
This seems to be rather far-fetched. Alternative facts, or what?
This leads me onto another piece which made me wonder whether I was having a bad dream. This article is on a related topic, Islam of course. It's by Arzu Merali , and it’s in Middle East Eye. The views expressed are the polar opposite to my own. “Why I think Amanda Spielman should resign her Ofsted post” It’s such a pity that the author declined the invitation to appear on Newsnight, in the Tommy Robinson / Amanda Spielman episode, if only so we might see which ‘tone’ Kirsty Wark adopted when questioning her.
She boasts of attending al-Quds day with her family “almost every year”, and undoubtedly supports the “political wing” of Hezbollah if not the terrorist wing. It’s hard to sympathise with her opinions given that we live in the UK rather than Islamabad. Look at this sample:
“Whereas thirty years ago, a rogue headteacher such as Ray Honeyford could cause a media furore with overtly racist comments, today, the very body that should be checking those abuses of power, is committing them and embedding them across the education system with the largely confused or compliant in tow. "
Has the world turned upside down? In an inverted world, she may have a point. The 'abuses of power, committing them and embedding them across the education system' is precisely what we’re worried about, but of course in exactly the opposite way.
The article is a negative of a positive. In an inside-out world where yes means no and good means bad her words are worth considering. She uses the very same terms as the opposition would use, but the meaning is reversed. It works only if you treat it as a game of opposites. She says Britain is hypocritical for its intolerance of Islam, and you can’t call yourself ‘liberal’ till you’re prepared to tolerate Islamic intolerance.
“Dressing up racism in the garb of tolerance isn't just disingenuous (…) it forms the basis of dehumanisation and delegitimisation required to enact both psychological and actual violence against out-groups.”
Woah! Exactly what sort of racist insists on dressing up in garb that overtly advertises its intolerance? Physician! Take a look at yourself, please do. We were originally defending the hijab here, were we not? For eight-year old primary schoolchildren?
And as for “out-groups”, hijab-wearing and burkha-wearing Muslims are automatically self identifying as an “out-group” unless they go and live somewhere where it’s the norm. And even those that do live there don’t think much of it.
“Arzu Merali is a writer and researcher based in London. [..] She is currently working on the multi-partner project ‘Counter-narratives to Islamophobia Toolkit’ with the University of Leeds.”
This is the UK, and people are now openly advocating importing parts of Sharia. Wake me up!