The Sun can't pretend saying we have a 'Muslim Problem' isn't reminiscent of Nazi propaganda

Just as the Nazis did with the Jews, there is suggestion that Muslim men are preying on white children and that migrants are carrying and spreading diseases and swindling their way through life

Trevor Kavanagh's column has received numerous complaints
Trevor Kavanagh's column has received numerous complaints

Does Britain have a “Muslim Problem”? Trevor Kavanagh, who is a Sun journalist, plainly thinks so. In his latest column he writes: “One day soon, if Philip Hammond and Liam Fox are right, we will be back in charge of immigration. What will we do about The Muslim Problem then?”

I mention Kavanagh particularly because he is, I think, close to Rupert Murdoch, and he writes in what remains an influential newspaper. But even if he did not, someone ought to pull him up about his casual (I hope) use of the phrase – with significant capitalisation – “The Muslim Problem”.

Kavanagh is a highly intelligent man, a former Political Editor of The Sun and a man who, I suggest, knows full well the nasty Nazi pedigree of such a phrase. If not, then he oughtn’t to be writing about such sensitive and important issues. If so, then I think he is playing with fire.

There are two issues he identifies as “Muslim Problems”. First, terror. This one is wearily familiar. The fact is that there are terrorists who are Muslims, and terrorists who kill in the name of Islam, just as there have been terrorists who happen to be Roman Catholic.

When the IRA was bombing its way across Ireland, Britain and Europe, no one called them Catholic Terrorists, even though most of them were nominally of that faith (and some, such as Martin McGuiness even taking the holy sacrament). It’s true that they didn’t kill in the name of Catholicism, but they did kill in the name of Ireland, even though the great majority of people in Ireland disapproved of their means and even, if they were true to themselves, weren’t that bothered about the romantic cause of Irish unity itself.

The IRA men purloined Irish identity for their own evil ends. The parallels are not precise – they never can be – but they are there with the current wave of Islamist terror. Getting rid of the Roman Catholic Church or committing genocide against the Irish or invading the modern Republic would not have solved the Irish question (or “problem”), and no one suggested it. In other words no one took the activities of the blokes in balaclavas kneecapping Protestant barmen and torturing British army officers as anything other than a bunch of dangerous fanatics who had to be controlled using police methods and intelligence on the one side, and a peace process on the other.

Again the parallels are not exact – the Islamists seem mostly to be beyond sensible discourse – but the point stands that you cannot blame an entire people or religion for acts committed in their name. That is a universal truth.

Then there are the sex abuse crimes, highlighted again in the recent Newcastle case. It’s perfectly true, I agree, that here and in many other cities and towns, from Oxford to Rotherham, the great majority of the perpetrators were Muslims and the victims were white girls. Muslim, yes, but also predominantly from certain parts of the Indian sub-continent too – meaning that the culture they came from was more significant than their religion.

There are, it bears repeating, many millions of decent Muslim men from all backgrounds (including Pakistani heritage) who would never dream of behaving in this way, including towards their own mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

After acid attacks on Muslims, Islamophobes are terrifying people by throwing water on them

The gangs’ activities were stomach churning, but the answer to them isn’t some sort of restriction on immigration but to deal with the criminals themselves; just as the answer to white people who abuse kids isn’t to persecute them on the grounds of their skin colour but to put them in court for a fair trial and then jail for a very long time for what they did.

So in the 1970s the Irish got vilified. The idea was that the Irish offered safe houses and shelter to IRA men on the run; well, some I guess did, but not many. They locked up innocent Irishmen and Irish women, people chucked bricks through the windows of Irish clubs and you got called names in the playground if you had a Gaelic name. But none of that actually solved the Irish Question – a political question.

Most were horrified at the bloodshed and resentful at how the gunmen made their lives miserable, and angry about the idea that all Irish people were secret supporters of terror. That parallel with persecution of the Muslim community of today is strong.

Even then in the bad old days there wasn’t much talk of an Irish Problem or a Black Problem as such, though it remained Conservative Party policy well into the 1970s to pay migrants to “go home” to the West Indies though a policy of “voluntary repatriation”. Nor did Enoch Powell do much to make immigrants feel at home. Yet today’s mythical “Muslim Problem” represents a new frontier in the normalisation of hate, frankly along with voting Ukip. And if you want to see the dark, obsessive, paranoiac streak of murderous hatred in British society head to the MailOnline comments section (also the excellent DM Reporter Twitter feed) or anything on the Guido Fawkes site about Diane Abbot or other BAME politicians.

Bacon appears to be placed in each item of Muslim family's McDonald's meal

The truth about Muslim people is that they are very much like their neighbours, who they have no wish to murder. Some, and not all, want to follow their faith – to massively varying degrees, and, again as they wish to integrate into society, and to make a life for themselves and their families. They work hard, or as hard as anyone else, they pay their taxes, they live law-abiding lives (again as much as anyone else).

They have their share of perverts, bastards and thieves, but so does every ethnic and religious group, including the Anglo-Saxons and Celts who’ve been here for centuries/millennia (though often with more miscegenation than they might assume, as that DNA testing exercise in the “quintessentially English village” of Bledington showed). And if folk wish to wear traditional dress, surely that’s up to them.

I don’t think I am getting overexcited about one article, though even if I were, you need eternal vigilance angst this sort of pernicious language if you are going to maintain a healthy and peaceful society. I think also of a few other notorious bits of journalism, broadly defined, we’ve seen lately. There was Kevin Myers’ tropes about Jews (namely Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkelman) being greedy for money in the Irish Sunday Times; Katie Hopkins for the MailOnline on “cockroach” refugees and a tweet about the “final solution” after the Manchester bombing; the Daily Mail cartoon that showed people coming in as refugees with rats, sickeningly reminiscent of Nazi propaganda film stuff (look up The Eternal Jew); and the daily subtle use of language and stereotypes that insidiously link Islam with evil and aggression. Too many headlines equate refugees, migrants, Muslims and terrorists in one sentence, so they become synonymous in people’s minds.

Just as the Nazis did with the Jews, now there is the suggestion that Muslim men are preying on white children, just as the Nazis exploited the blood libel and the notion that Jews were abducting German children; and also the same notions that migrants are carrying and spreading diseases and swindling their way through life.

And just as the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion was supposed to prove a global Jewish conspiracy, so now we are sometimes asked to believe in the Qur’an as the motivation for some monolithic “Muslim” entity in some great “clash of civilisations”. The more you look at it the more the echoes resonate.

The sub-editors and writers and editors who do it I think know that they are doing it because words and punctuation are their trade. It makes me sad to see it debased, except of course that elements of the British press were on Mosley’s side in the 1930s, so it ain’t that new. Still horrible, though.

In any case this type of hostility and vengeful phobia is, of course, precisely the sort of reaction that Bin Laden and all who came after him have sought, to foment a sort of race/religious war that will justify their actions, perpetuate the conflict they started and feed off its own hatreds. Looking around the world, not least the ugly excrescence of Nazism in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the consequences of the West’s ill-judged attacks on Iraq and “crackdowns” on migrants, I cannot help feeling that Bin Laden might be well-pleased with the way his unwitting dupes in the West allowed themselves to be so manipulated.

A Muslim Problem? No such thing, but I suppose we certainly will have a Muslim Problem if journalists and politicians convince people there is such a thing. Look at the harmless cake maker Nadiya Hussain, who gets told to her face on a train by some stranger that “I ain’t sitting near a Muslim”, adding, “I expect to be shoved or pushed or verbally abused, because it happens, it’s happened for years”. That’s the real “Muslim Problem” – and it isn’t Muslims who’ve created it.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in