This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of December, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 3 December 2019
Media outlet: The Times, British daily national newspaper
Author: Melanie Phillips
Headline: “Islamists are not the same as other prisoners”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This piece by Melanie Phillips was published in The Times, and was in-part a response to the attack on London Bridge on November 29th, 2019, committed by Usman Khan. Khan was convicted of plotting a terrorist attack in 2012 and went through a rehabilitation program for terrorism convicts. In this piece, Phillips is claiming that rehabilitation programmes do not work for Islamic terrorists due to the Islamic doctrine of ‘taqiyya’: “They [Islamic terrorists] may furthermore observe the doctrine of 'taqiyya', the command to deceive for Islam. [...] This might explain why de-radicalisation programmes in prison are failing. Many who take part are said to pretend they have changed their views in order to game the system. All this means Islamic radicalisation poses a unique set of challenges. Yet the entire establishment runs terrified from acknowledging any of them for fear of being accused on 'Islamophobia', the term used to silence all criticism of the Muslim world."
Myth debunked: The issue here is misinformation, and how this misinformation is being used to paint an anti-Muslim image. Phillips is referring to the Islamic doctrine of ‘taqiyya’ seemingly with very little knowledge about its specificities, and how it is applied. Dr H.A. Hellyer wrote for ABC news Australia how Phillips misinterpreted the doctrine: “A recent column published by the Times of London demonstrates why such editorial diligence, especially when religious claims are concerned, is so vital. Admittedly, the columnist, Melanie Phillips, has form when it comes to anti-Muslim bigotry. Nevertheless, the Times seemingly did nothing to prevent her from describing ‘the doctrine of taqiyya’ as ‘the command to deceive for Islam.’ She goes on to enlist the claim of a deceased professor (without citation) that such divinely authorised deceit is common practice among Muslims. This is, of course, nonsense. And had Phillips or her editor done their due diligence, they would have discovered as much. Taqiyya is, after all, a concept that is fairly easily fact-checked — but the consequences of not checking such sweeping claims are immense because they contribute further to the demonization of Muslim communities, particularly in the West where they already face entrenched societal antipathy."
Criticising the de-radicalisation program in the UK is not the issue here; such programs and their responsible institutions are open to criticism and should be monitored. However, when such criticism is used to push an anti-Muslim narrative, it transforms into bigotry. What Phillips is essentially saying with this piece, is that all Muslims are taught to deceive, and paints a picture of them as untrustworthy and potentially dangerous. Not only is she blurring the line between Muslims and Islamic terrorists through this piece, but her argument lacks strong theological background and evidence. This is not the first time Phillips has pushed anti-Muslim narratives through her writing; she wrote another piece in the Jewish Chronicle this month claiming that claims of Islamophobia are “bogus.” Despite this history, Phillips is still regularly hosted on large platforms like The Times and allowed to spread her hateful ideas.
More to read: