Thursday 15 May 2014

Mishal of Troy

Mishal Husain, reporting from Birmingham

At the other end of yesterday, I was driving to work whilst listening to Today, and happened to catch Mishal Husain just after 7 o'clock talking to Muslim parents and schoolchildren in Birmingham. Her report, in anticipation of the imminent findings of an investigation into the alleged Islamification of certain schools in the city, contained nothing but praise for the schools in the eye of the storm and expressions of disbelief, distress and outrage at the claims of Islamification being made against them.

I was left wondering whether this was going to be Mishal's take on the issue throughout the programme, as that would have smelled of clear bias - and it was clear that there would be more from her on the subject as she was broadcasting from Birmingham that morning specifically in order to focus on 'Operation Trojan Horse'.

Catching up last night with the rest of yesterday's Today revealed that this caught-on-the-wing segment just after 7 o'clock was, indeed, just a part of Mishal Husain's reporting from Birmingham that day. She played another clip from supportive Muslim parents and schoolchildren at 6.10am and then talked to the BBC's Phil Mackie about it at 6.30am.

The main segment though came in the primetime 8.10am spot.

After a short interview with Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, who does believe that Wahhabi types are trying to take over schools in his city, Mishal interviewed Tahir Alam, governor of Park View School and the man accused of being the ring-leader of this 'Islamist plot' - and I don't think anyone could reasonably accuse Mishal Husain of pulling her punches much. She gave him a thorough grilling, including challenging him forcefully over his own past record - including that infamous publication from the mid-Noughties where he laid out a prescription for Islamising schools that reads (or so I'm told) like a blueprint for the plot outlined in the original Trojan Horse document - and which chimes with specific complaints being made by other parents and former teachers.

I think she did a good job, and if I hadn't listened back last night and caught up with what I'd missed that morning I might still have been left with the impression that the BBC was reporting from Birmingham merely in order to propagandise on behalf of the see-no-evil-hear-no-evil side of the argument there.

...the Beeb's record on the story has been mixed. It has done some real reporting on it – that is, making the effort, like us, to gather actual evidence of its own. But on other occasions it’s been too ready to take at face value the obviously self-serving denials of obviously interested parties – such as governors of the schools concerned, or in this case Birmingham City Council. 
At least Mishal Husain didn't just take Tahir Alam's denials at face value.

NB. There's an interesting take on this interview from Sarah AB at Harry's Place.

I did note, in passing, that her two examples of bias in the way headlines have been spun on the story - Council expects ‘firestorm’ over Trojan Horse schools plot’ and ‘No Trojan Horse extremism links’ Birmingham teachers hear - relate to the Daily Telegraph and the BBC.

Can you guess which headline comes from which news source? (I bet you can).

1 comment:

  1. You`re a bit kind to Hussain there I`d say.
    That concept of taqqiya needs unpacking-this governor will say what it takes to ride the squalls on route to the Caliphate.
    Thought him completely disingenous...which of course is the job.
    Mahmood is a decent cove personally but out of his depth, and behind the curve....if he`s content with a few more mixed classes and girls not being made to put a headscarf on now...then his low expectations are typical Labour musings...and dangerous.
    Why didn`t we get Liam Byrne or Gisela Stuart...both Labour, but both with questions to answer as well as local knowledge?


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