|Protestors belonging to a fringe group called Muslims Against the Crusades (MAC) carried placards that read 'British soldiers are cowards' and 'What are you dying for? 18k' as two hundred members of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment marched through Barking yesterday. |
A counter-demonstration by 100 men wearing EDL attire also took place, with protestors shouting 'Muslim bombers off our streets' and 'Allah, Allah, who the f**k is Allah' and clashing with MAC protestors.
The clash was depicted from different angles in the papers today.
The Daily Mail carried the headline ‘Into the jaws of hate’ with the strap line reading ‘Soldiers’ parade marred by Muslim extremists and the far-Right.’ The newspaper chose not to describe the counter-demonstrators as ‘extremist’, in spite of the fact they violently stormed police barriers and ‘traded punches.’
Similarly, The Daily Mirror used the term ‘Muslim militants’ to describe demonstrators from MAC, but spared the counter-protestors from similar terminology, instead labelling them merely as ‘right-wing.’
The Sun meanwhile ran the headline ‘Extremists’ insult to troops’ with its article stating:
‘Riot police were forced to step in as they clashed with angry locals who draped themselves in England flags, belted out the national anthem and retaliated with chants of "scum" and "we pay your benefits".’
The Sun’s article also noticeably employed different terminology when referring to the two groups, stating:
‘The hour-long parade was delayed as the vile extremists clashed with members of the far-right English Defence League.’
The Daily Express referred to the counter-protestors in the following context:
‘Police had to act quickly to prevent widespread violence when anti-Muslim protestors broke through police lines and a fight began.’
The Daily Star on page six of its newspaper described MAC protestors as ‘extremists’, ‘vile fanatics’, ‘sickos’ and ‘thugs’, adding:
‘The Muslims Against Crusades group was allowed free reign as it carried out its sick demo. Members were even protected by police from a baying mob who were rightly furious at their behaviour. Everyone has a right to free speech. But this was clearly inciting racial tensions. Every one of these thugs should have been arrested on the spot. Acts like these cannot be allowed to continue. Britain is a democracy. But sickos cannot be allowed to abuse our laws, or our brave troops fighting for peace on the front line.’
Today, the Daily Star’s poll asked: ‘Should we ban these protests?’ – referring to the actions of MAC, a fringe group that is undoubtedly unrepresentative of two million Muslims countrywide and appears to be a new incarnation of al-Muhajiroun. However, although we disagree with the demonstrator’s views, the right to demonstrate is a fundamental one that underpins the British democratic process.
Notably, the Daily Star has flirted with the extreme right before in its commentaries and news output, allowing the discourse of the likes of EDL to enter into the mainstream. When covering the EDL, the Daily Star’s story on 23 September 2009 was headlined ‘Case for the defence’ and ran alongside a picture of members of the group burning a swastika flag, an action presumably attempting to show they are not fascists. The Daily Star complimented the story with a poll that asked: ‘Has the English Defence League got it right?’
A full-page feature printed by the Daily Star on the EDL earlier this year headlined ‘All colours and creeds are backing crusade' ran alongside a poll asking 'Should the EDL become a recognised political party?' An EDL spokesperson said on the article:
"The article about our activities has produced an amazing response.
“We’ve had Sikhs, Hindus, black people, Jews and even Muslims contacting us.
“Quite a few said they had gone on to our website for the first time and, after reading our views and aims, realised they previously had the wrong impression about us.
“They saw we want peaceful protest against extremism and said they agree with what we stand for.
“Many seemed pleased that they’d found someone who stood up for what they feel.”
The sympathetic coverage of the Daily Star clearly bolstered the morale of a group that has been exposed as extremist, racist and deliberately provocative.
The subtle disparities in press coverage of events that unfolded in Barking yesterday indicate not merely bias but a clear attempt to introduce the discourse of extreme anti-Muslim and anti-Islam groups into the mainstream. The demonstrations by MAC and EDL and the accompanying coverage surrounding the event will no doubt play into the hands of both groups and undermine social cohesion in the UK.
|< Prev||Next >|