Kavanagh ducks the questions

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I know I’m a bit late on this, but a couple of the left-wing bloggers have responded to Trevor Kavanagh’s idiotic response to the Dispatches documentary broadcast on Monday, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Muslim: Lenin includes a reference to an earlier clanger of Kavanagh’s in which he suggested that “Sunni Iran” wanted all the oil, while SepticIsle has a lengthier refutation (both referenced from Islamophobia Watch). More: Mark Steel.)

I recommend that people read the latter of those entries especially. I have a couple of other points to add:

First, Kavanagh does not bother to answer the central issue raised by Oborne about the press, which is that they foment hostility against Muslims (and others) by routinely printing sensational stories which distort the facts. He instead dismisses it:

The accusation that the media — with a few badly researched or unchecked stories — is fomenting race hatred is in itself a trivialisation.

I receive emails from women Muslims crying out for help …

So, he changes the subject completely after one sentence, without addressing the issue. Remember that this is in the context of a documentary about Muslims being harassed in the street, imams being severly injured in attacks in the street and a mosque (and the imam’s home) being vandalised; the fact that such stories might have something to do with it, given that the perpetrators are more likely to read his paper than the Times or Guardian, is something Kavanagh and his chums need to answer. The fact is that they ran with the stories to sell papers, knowing that they would wind people up. It’s not “a trivialisation”.

Second, he cites Wafa Sultan, a character who has already been exposed as dishonest (for example, by claiming to have witnessed the murder of a professor which, in fact, did not happen), making a specious challenge to “a furious cleric to name a single Jew (sic) or Buddhist suicide bomber”. The fact is that the tactic originated with the Tamil Tigers, not Hizbullah or Hamas. Kavanagh is relying on his readers’ ignorance of who Wafa Sultan is; if he had cited her in a real debate with Muslims, they would have laughed in his face. She is well-known as a shrill harpy who makes stupid, loud claims for herself; for example, she boasted - and you can see this on YouTube as well - of a man who told her that her book was his Qur’an.

Third, he brushes off comparisons between Muslim isolationism and Jewish isolationism by simply saying that “Jews — who are themselves increasingly the target for hate attacks — are not trying to bomb Britain”. Well, neither are most Muslims. However, most of the issues which offend outsiders about isolated Muslim communities, including the lack of opportunities for women, the general concern about social isolation and the negative attitude towards outsiders, are present in the isolated Jewish communities as well, often to a greater extent.

The generalisations about Muslim women and how they are treated in various countries are irrelevant, besides being largely untrue. The fact is that if you visit most Arab countries you will see women, some with heads uncovered but certainly mostly without faces covered. There are very few places left where you will see most of the women fully covered: parts of Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, it is rather hollow for a journalist to answer accusations that stories printed by his newspaper contribute to hostility against Muslims which is displayed in street attacks, including on women, by deflecting it onto Muslim men as if they all behave in the way he describes.

Whether or not the Sun’s reporting is motivated by Islamophobia, I’m not sure. They are, at the end of the day, a mass-market tabloid which makes its money reporting sensational stories and winding people up, and if they can best do this with stories which make a minority look bad, so be it. One solution is for newspapers to face sanctions for printing high-profile stories which prove to be inaccurate; a requirement to print an apology is not enough. There must be fines which actually bite, and the threat of suspension of their circulation.

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