From causal Mormon mockery, to the accusations against a Jobbik politician of representing “Islamic interests”, these January highlights are an overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
UNITED KINGDOM: Casual Mormon mockery
Date of publication: 17 January 2018
Media outlet: The Independent
About the source: The Independent is a British online newspaper with a liberal alignment.
Author: Adam Lusher
Headline: "Mormons: What does the powerful religious group actually believe?"
Description of the anti-Mormon content:
The article is written in a way that mocks the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While supposedly denouncing the general derision towards Mormons, the journalists still subscribes to the mockery.
He says: “And yet for all the apparent wackiness, or wackiness by association, the official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints continues to flourish.” And then sneers at changes in their doctrines: “Although, of course, in Mormonism divine instructions can be subject to change, most notably in the matter of polygamy.” The quotes used also come from sources who scorn this religion: “‘What the hell? BYU?’ Then I slowly realised how many Mormons there are on Wall Street. […] Which would be pretty good going for something that you could say was founded on the vision of a teenage boy in his bedroom.”
According to the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, “Mormonism is the collective name for a group of related churches, movements, and theologies that trace their origins back to the prophetic revelations of Joseph Smith Jr. (1805–1844).” After the death of Smith, the movement fractured, and the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) become the largest institutional manifestation of Mormonism today.
Mocking Mormons, and sneering at their beliefs, is generally seen as acceptable. Mormons are ridiculed by Christians and secularists alike. But would the same treatment be reserved to other religious groups for their religious beliefs? Would Christians, for example, be similarly snickered at for believing in Holy Trinity (one God in three Divine Persons), or believing that baptism, the rite of becoming a Christian, is necessary for salvation?
This casual Mormon mockery might seem innocuous, but can be harmful and offensive. In a Gallup poll in 2015, 18 percent of Americans still say “they would not vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate who happens to be a Mormon.” The prejudice against Mormons seems not to have changed since 1967, when the percent was 17 percent.
Furthermore, when Mormons are belittled for being “crazy” and “weird”, they are represented – with a very broad generalisation – as if all people belonging to this faith are all “fools”, and have exactly the same thoughts and characteristics.
More to read:
UNITED KINGDOM: Emphasis on the perpetrator’s religion
Date of publication: 16 January 2018
Media outlet: MailOnline
About the source: MailOnline is the website of the Daily Mail, a British tabloid and the second-biggest-selling daily newspaper in the UK. The political alignment of the newspaper is conservative. It is known for having a sensationalistic approach.
Author: Mark Duell
Headline: “Muslim husband is found guilty of murdering his convert wife with claw hammer and knife and burning her body after he had banned her from seeing her family”
Description of Islamophobic content:
This article puts strong emphasis on the perpetrator’s religion, flashing it on the headline, and highlighting that his murdered wife had previously converted to Islam. And yet, when reading the article it becomes clear that the religion of the perpetrator has no relevance at all in the facts described. The underlying message, however, is that this tragic event happened because the man is Muslim.
Does the MailOnline report the religion of the perpetrator when it’s a white Christian man? Would the headline be “Christian husband kills convert wife" if the husband was Christian? Most likely not. But the MailOnline is not alone. News outlets, especially tabloids, tend to spotlight the religion of the perpetrators of crimes when they are Muslim. This happens even when there is no apparent connection between the crime and the religious background. In doing so, they imply that those crimes were committed by Muslims because of Islam.
This type of articles have a negative impact on the perceptions of Islam and Muslims by non-Muslims. They lead to increasing hostility against Muslims. ECRI, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, even called for the British media to “avoid perpetuating prejudice”, and said that “fuelling prejudice against Muslims shows a reckless disregard, not only for the dignity of the great majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom, but also for their safety.”
More to read:
GREECE: Columnist's rant on the “new customs” of “multicultural Europe”
Date of publication: 15 January 2018
Media outlet: Dimokratia
Author: Napoleon Linardatos
About the source: Dimokratia is a conservative right-wing newspaper and classifies 3rd in national rankings of daily circulation.
Headline: "The western way of action and thought is becoming more and more often evidence and proof of guilt”
Description of Islamophobia and anti-refugee content: With sarcastic tone, the columnist of Dimokratia expresses his discontent towards what he ironically calls the “new customs” of “multicultural Europe”. He states that, in France, there has been a more tolerant policy towards refugees or immigrants who commit illegal acts than towards nationals when committing similar crimes. He singles out Muslims and selects a couple of cases to prove his point and make broad generalisations against a group.
He writes: “A typical characteristic of modern European states, it their tendency to establish -de facto- two parallel legal regimes. If you belong to a group under the protection of the lefties, like a Muslim illegal immigrant, the state will be more tolerant towards you, when committing violations of the fundamental rights of other citizens who do not belong to the so-called "protected groups." If you belong to the general population on the other hand, the state further keeps restricting your freedoms and rights with every new legislation act. If you respect the rights of your fellow citizens and you are person who offers in the society, all this behaviour is at least suspicious.”
Despite a lack of evidence, he implied that the 267,000 sexual abuses recorded on public transport in France have been committed by Muslims, and stated that they have been ignored (implication: because they are committed by Muslims), while authorities have decided to “ban flirting” (implication: all white French men do is “flirt” and they are not even allowed to do it). The columnist is drawing into the “they rape our women” false myth, evoking images of French women (who, according to this thought, should rightfully belong to French men to “flirt” with) as now threatened by foreign Muslim men and are no longer “available” to French men.
The Democratia columnist quotes a poll by Ifop from September 2016. He uses these data to strongly affirm that there are “two parallel legal regimes” in France. However, he brings no evidence to support his statement that Muslim people in France are privileged when it comes to abiding to the law. In a country where certain laws, branded as neutral, disproportionally discriminate against Muslims, it seems it is rather the Muslim population the one to suffer the consequences of the French secularism (laïcité). The Democratia columnist is reversing here the responsibility with a rhetorical trick known as victim-abuser reversal and blaming those victims of discrimination to be the abusers.
More to read:
HUNGARY: Jobbik politician accused of representing "Islamic interests"
Date of publication: 30 January 2018
Media outlet: Origo
About the source: Origo is Hungary’s second most popular news website. It is a pro-government news portal. It changed its editorial stance in 2015, moving from being critical of the Fidesz-led government to becoming more government-friendly in its political reporting
Headline: “Another revelation: Gábor Vona was always representing Islam's interests” (“Újabb leleplezés: Vona Gábor mindig is az iszlám érdekeket képviselte”)
Description of anti-Muslim content:
Gábor Vona is the co-founder and chair of Hungary’s far-right, nationalistic Jobbik party. Origo accuses him to “represent Islamic interests” and puts together a list of speeches and meetings that Vona had with Muslim organisations in and outside Hungary. Vona’s attendance of meetings with some Muslim organisations over several years is interpreted by Origo as something despicable. The language is purposely exaggerated: “Vona's Muslim craving”, and “the party leader who deprived Jobbik of his identity”.
Orbán, prime minister of Hungary and the leader of of Fidesz party have repeatedly stated to be fighting what they call the “Islamisation” of Europe. Origo, pro-government paper, is attacking Gábor Vona with the aim to discredit him and his party, which is at the opposition. Vona’s attendance of meetings with some Muslim organisations over several years is therefore interpreted by Origo as something despicable. What can be inferred from the article is that when a politician is in good relationship with a Muslim organisation, it means that this politician is somehow stopping representing the interest of “Hungarians” to represent, instead, what they call “Islamic interest”. And while the two things don’t exclude each other, Vona has actually done nothing, in practical terms, to support the “Islamic interests”
More to read:
GERMANY: False conspiracy theories on replacement migration
Date of publication: 27 January 2018
Media outlet: Journalistenwatch
About the source: Journalistenwatch is a far-right blog pro-AfD, the right-wing populist, Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant party
Headline: We all have been lied to! EU paper proves: It was never about "refugees", rather about a planned "resettlement (Wir wurden alle belogen! EU-Papier beweist: Es ging nie um „Flüchtlinge“, sondern um eine geplante „Neuansiedlung“)
Description of anti-refugee content:
The article uses official trustworthy sources, such as EU and UN documents, to prove a conspiracy theory called the “great replacement”. According to this theory, European institutions and several member states’ governments are secretly plotting to replace Europe’s aging population with non-European immigrants who will be the new workforce but will also irreparably overturn Europe’s “identity”.
The article correlates a press release on the EU Resettlement Framework, specifically on refugees in need of protection, to an old UN paper dating back to 2001 about aging population. While it is true that the UN paper talks about “replacement migration” as a factor to consider to tackle a declining population, the Journalistenwatch article picks up specifically on that term and create a false link between this paper and the whole European Union’s policy on refugees’ rights.
Besides the fact that immigration does not mean wiping out an existing culture, and besides the fact that what makes Europe is a multitude of people of different religions, languages, beliefs – if the EU was really planning to “replace” its core population with non-Europeans, would they let thousands of refugees die every year while crossing the Mediterranean Sea? Would the Italian government have signed an agreement with Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) to keep refugees from arriving in Europe?
More to read:
FRANCE: Anti-Arab racism of Zemmour
Date of publication: 26 January 2018
Media outlet: L'Incorrect
Author: Gabriel Robin interviews Eric Zemmour
Headline: EXCLUSIVE - Eric Zemmour: "My observation and my diagnosis are now the norm" (EXCLUSIF – Éric Zemmour : « Mon constat et mon diagnostic sont désormais la norme »)
About the source: L’incorrect is a conservative-right leaning monthly magazine founded in 2017.
About the author:
In this interview, journalist Gabriel Robin interviews Eric Zemmour, controversial French writer and TV personality. Zemmour contributes to the newspaper Le Figaro, radio RTL and the TV Channel Paris Première. He was sentenced in 2011 with the accusation of "justification of the discrimination in employment" for having he said on the France Ô TV that employers "have the right to refuse Arab people or Black people". He was also sentenced in 2015 for incitement to racial hatred against Muslims, for saying, on an interview for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, that Muslims "have their own Civil Code, the Quran. They live a closed setting, in suburbs. French people have to move". Last January, however, the Court of Cassation quashed the conviction.
Description of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab content:
Zemmour complains about the way population census are done in France, which causes an underestimation estimation of the number of the Muslim population. He said: "an American study has revealed that there was 8.5 million of Muslims in France, when all the experts tell us that it is between 4 and 5 million. Why? Simply because the Americans are more pragmatic. They don't care about the self-declared religion! They add parents' religion, which is clearly logical".
Zemmour then continues claiming French culture being out ruled by Muslim immigrants:" La Grande Borgne of Grigny (surburb of Paris) is no more French! As you said it, we are already wrong to talk about the "lost territories of the Republic", because it is the lost territories of France! Republic is still there, there are public services. A bit of State. But there is no more French culture. Trappes or Grigny (suburbs of Paris) are widely Islamised, subjected to gangs rules. They want to present me as a war criminal but everybody agrees with me. This is France who is disappearing from dozens of dozens of neighbourhoods. So yes, you have Muslims integrated, who are blending into the French people. But this reality exists more than ever".
Zemmour is deliberately mixing up religion with parental origin, with the aim of making it appear that there are more Muslims. He is also implying that it is essentially impossible for Muslim parents to raise non-Muslim children. Using the same logic, there would be virtually no atheists anywhere in the world. It also means that once someone in your family is a Muslim, you will always be Muslim (because if Hassan and Fatima have a daughter, Miriam, and Miriam is automatically Muslim, then it means her children will be too, and so on). Zemmour says “It is perfectly logical”, but it is not. In fact, you wouldn’t use it for any other religion in any other context. What Zemmour is doing is to make the implicit claim that there is some form of “Muslimism” which is somehow pervasive and unshakeable. While doing so, Zemmour even pretends that this is a statistical fact, not a biased world view.
Zemmour then uses this claim as the basis for his second claim, which is the presence of some sort of “sneaky Islamisation of France”. Again, he’s implying two things. One is that that Muslims are not really French. And the second is that “real French people” are somehow endangered (being wiped out) by these “others”. He also successfully turned all Muslims into “others” – not just immigrants but, by his definition, anyone who is a descendant of any Muslim person.
More to read: