Australia: media lies promote Islamophobia

by Sandra Bloodworth

If you have ever ‘liked’ a Facebook page, a meme or a comment that equates cops with pigs, you could be in trouble. Melbourne’s Herald Sun included in its sinister portrayal of Hassan El Sabsabi, charged with funding terrorist organisations overseas, the fact that he “‘liked’ a page showing doctored images of [police] with pigs’ heads”.

This wasn’t buried in an obscure article. Nor was it a joke. It was in the first paragraph of a front page article under the screaming headline “SPONSOR A JIHADI”. Just the usual fiesta of reaction we expect from the Herald Sun. But a trawl through the papers and websites of the Murdoch and Fairfa­­­­x press shows how vile all of them are.

Turds and liberals unite in the cause of misrepresentation

It is not just turds like Andrew Bolt of the Herald Sun and Paul Sheehan of the Sydney Morning Herald. The Islamophobia permeates all the coverage. A few critical opinions in the Fairfax press made hardly a dent even in those papers.

The sheer amount of space – anything from two to eight pages in every paper nearly every day – sends a clear message:

be afraid and suspicious of Muslims. Article after article relies on innuendo, half-truths, connections that don’t stand up to scrutiny and repetition of a few points to ram home this Islamophobia.

An article titled “Street preachers link in counter-terror raids” in the ‘liberal’ Sunday Age on 28 September is typical of the method. It opened with: “Several of the young men detained during sweeping counter-terrorism raids in Sydney have been banned from Parramatta’s streets.”

After five paragraphs about their involvement with various mosques, we were told: “it is understood complaints had been made to the local council and police have asked the group to move on”. The clear impression created was that they were banned on suspicion of terrorist threats.  But we discover that a Parramatta City Council spokesperson “stressed”, that’s right, stressed that the offence “was not specific to any religious group”. They were fined under by-laws that deny the right to hand out leaflets in the streets. So, actually, the point should be that free speech is denied in Parramatta.

But there’s more. Two men associated with the group died in Syria recently. It’s assumed they were fighting with banned terrorists. In fact two other men in the group are involved in humanitarian work – they could well be killed. But you can rely on the media, of whatever ilk, to recycle loyally the racist narrative that anyone who goes to Syria is a threat to humanity.

Islamophobic chorus

There’s a chorus of Islamophobic headlines and deliberate invention of terrorism scares. The day after the 18 September mass raids, the Age’s “Terror Australis” and the Courier Mail’s “Fair dinkum savagery” headlines were penned with the full knowledge that only one man had been charged with anything related to terrorism and that another two were held without charge.

There were no front page headlines about the reports of violent abuse and attacks on Muslim women.

The absolute disregard of any presumption of innocence for those arrested mocks the idea of a fair trial. The Age added the kicker “Beheading plot foiled” to the “Terror Australis” front page, a point re-emphasised by a headline across two pages: “Top terror recruiter behind grisly murder plot”. It was a horror story invented by the media.

If you read carefully you found an admission that, in an intercepted phone call, “beheading was not specifically mentioned … it is assumed that this would have been the method of killing”.

A Saturday Age article, “Terror crackdown”, was about more police raids – on the homes of families of two “convicted criminals”, neither of whom was charged with anything to do with terrorism. We were informed of the irrelevant fact that the wife of Hamdi al Qudsi (a jailed man alleged by cops to organise men to go to Syria) “caused controversy” in 2010 because she refused to remove her burqa for a random breath test.

The Sunday Telegraph ran the poetic headline “Jailhouse Jihadis” on a story (elaborated further on Monday by the Daily Telegraph) about “radical rioters” at Goulburn jail. Actually the Muslims were locked in their cells. What they did was call out in solidarity to their protesting Aboriginal brothers. Every assertion in the Telegraph, other than there had been a riot, was an Islamophobic lie.

Creating an environment for assaults on Muslim women

For days the Age ran a banner headline “TERROR” across two pages. On 24 September, neither of the articles under it was actually about “terror” – unless it meant state terror. One was about Coalition divisions over “banning the burqa” (they couldn’t even get the name right – what they meant was the niqab), the other about ASIO’s powers.

Thousands of words droned on and on in print and on TV and radio about the debate over whether “the burqa” should be banned. The Age ran “WAR ON TERROR” as a banner across a page full of this tripe. And on its website on 3 October, a link, “Terror strikes home”, took you to an article about “banning the burqa” in parliament.

Then there was the huge photo of a young man – falsely identified as Numan Haider, the man shot by police in Endeavour Hills – denounced in huge type as a “Teenage Terrorist” on the front pages of Fairfax papers. This was followed a day later not with equivalent headlines to clear his name, but with paltry “apologies” of a few sentences.

This cacophony of Islamophobic filth has played a large part in creating the environment in which Muslim women are abused, spat at and physically attacked in our streets.

It’s gutter journalism; racist dog whistling on behalf of a despicable government.

This article first appeared on the site of Red Flag, newspaper of Australia’s largest Marxist group, Socialist Alternative, here.