With reference to this story in The Sun (direct link): Parents fume as school scraps Christmas Nativity for play about jewellery thieves Bill and Bob
The story itself contains the following quote from the school’s headteacher:
But headteacher, Janet Vaughan, has defended the new production saying it is merely a light-hearted twist on the traditional Christmas tale.
She said: “It is very, very funny and nothing more than a light-hearted version of events.
“The outcome is the robbers are caught and banged to rights and the true meaning of Christmas comes across very strongly with a nativity at the end.
“It is nice to have a fun element to any sort of Christmas production and we always have a religious basis to it as well.
“It’s nonsense to say the words are anything other than tongue-in-cheek and the children understand that.”
So this particular school hasn’t scrapped the Nativity at all. They’re just trying to make it more fun. After Leveson, you’d think the press might be taking a bit more care not to publish inflammatory and misleading headlines, but obviously not.
Looking below the line into the comments section reveals that parents at the school have a very different opinion to that being put forward by The Sun. Here is a small selection (with thanks to @speelingmstake for pointing these out):
BBC Sunday Morning Live hosted a discussion this morning that was nominally about whether the media is fuelling Islamophobia in the UK (you can see the whole discussion on iPlayer, here). This followed the release of a report on that very subject, which Kevin Arscott had a look at on Angry Mob, in his post titled The persecution of Muslims by the British Media is real, and endorsed by millions. The report itself can be downloaded from Unitas Communications here.
Against my better judgement, I watched the whole discussion. Without too much comment (apart from the odd sarcastic remark, perhaps), I am going to share some extracts from it here (link to transcript) and let people make their own judgements on what was said.
Samira Ahmed: Alright, I just want to bring in another contributer. We have, um, someone who’s been a victim of one of these attacks, er, Nurjahan Khatun. What happened to you?
Nurjahan Khatun: Hi, morning. Thanks for having me on. What happened to me, er, a good few years ago now was, I was walking home one evening, early evening, around five o’clock, and I noticed a group of young, white men, er, ranging between eight or nine of them, actually. They rushed towards me, and pushed me down onto the floor. Now, while they were doing this, they were screaming out, “Bin Laden,” “scum,” and other, verbal, quite abusive words at me. Now, because they were a lot taller than me, they pushed me to the ground. While I fell to the ground, I kept feeling, erm, my hijab, my headscarf being pulled, my, er, burka being pulled, and I was being kicked, I was being punched. For what felt like a lifetime, that was going on. A few… A few minutes later, um, these white, young men, erm, I felt something was being poured over me, erm, from a couple of various sources, some sort of liquid or fluid. I realised later on, when it splashed into my mouth, that I was actually being urinated on.
Samira Ahmed: My god…
Nurjahan Khatun: So I felt, physically, three sources of, erm, urination coming towards me. Now, towards the end of this attack, erm, something was being rubbed on my face by two hands. Now, whether that was one person, or two person, I don’t recall, because I was trying to protect my head by covering my head with my arms while I was screaming for help. Now, while this was happening, I kept thinking, “What on Earth is it that they’re rubbing into my face?” I never would have ever believed that I had dog faeces actually being rubbed in my face.
Samira Ahmed: I’m so sorry. Wh… What did the police say? Did they treat this a s a racist attack, or did they say it was Islamophobic?
Nurjahan Khatun: Well, they classified it as a race attack. Erm, clearly it wasn’t, because of the words that they were using, some of which I cannot repeat on live… erm, on air. Er, it was very clearly that it was an anti-Muslim prejudiced attack. I’ve actually had, I’m presuming, the same youth, erm, group of white men, who were shouting and throwing stones at me in the week… weeks leading up to that in the area that I was living at the time.
Samira Ahmed: I’m sorry. Um…
Nurjahan Khatun: So, er, it was very clear that it was anti-Muslim, it was very clear that my hijab was being pulled off, and the burka was being ripped… kind of being ripped off.
Samira Ahmed: Nur… Nurjahan, thank you very much for… for coming on and sharing that story with us. I mean, it is… it is an appalling tale, Ann, and you can see why…
Ann Leslie [interrupting]: It is an appalling tale.
Samira Ahmed: …for women like her…
Ann Leslie [speaking over Samira Ahmed]: All attacks like that are appalling.
Samira Ahmed: They feel there’s a connection to a wider picture.
Symon Hill: But why is this not… as much… Why is the attack on this… this vicious attack…
Ann Leslie: Well, I assume it has been. Of course, I don’t know.
Symon Hill: …and it’s a terrible story. Why is this not in the media as much?
Ann Leslie: But, I mean, what puzzles me slightly is, your hijab is your headscarf. Were you wearing a burka in your home at the same time, which covers your entire face?
Samira Ahmed: No, I… I don’t think she was when… The whole thing is, she wasn’t wearing…
Nurjahan Khatun: I don’t wear…
Samira Ahmed: Should it make a difference?
Ann Leslie: Yes, because this is the trouble. I mean, I have worked in the Middle East a lot, some of it undercover. I was born in a… er, a Muslim country, Pakistan. It wasn’t Pakistan then. Erm, I… when I go to Iran, or Saudi, I have to wear the full bin bag outfit, you know. I’m obliged to do that. Now, it seems to me that if you wear a burka, [hand gesture indicating face-covering] or a niqab, you can’t see any… any face. It makes people slightly alarmed, becaue they think these people don’t like us.
Samira Ahmed: Okay, I think you’ve made that point, Ann. I … Because we’re running out of time
Ann Leslie: And because she was not wearing a burka, she was wearing a hijab, but, whatever she was wearing, the attack was disgusting, of course it was. I don’t think any newspaper would say, “Oh, wonderful. Stick up for white men attacking women…”
Mohammed Shafiq: I’m sure… I’m sure we would see…
Symon Hill: It could get a bit more coverage… [?]
Mohammed Shafiq: We sould see… We see these stories in the newspapers, which we don’t see these stories, and…
Ann Leslie [interrupting]: No, we do… [Not sure about this bit. Everyone talking over each other again]
Mohammed Shafiq: We don’t. With respect… With respect, we don’t, and if it was, a… er… a… you know, an anti-Muslim story, then it’d be front page news, on the Daily Mail in particular.
Some other highlights of the discussion:
Symon Hill: The… Terrorism is news at the moment, erm… Most people are aware that only a small minority of Muslims are sympathetic to terrorism, and… and as Ann says, the news reports things that are unusual. However, I do think that, while the blame for racist attacks lies with the racists who commit them primarily, nonetheless the media have to behave reponsibly, and what we do see is some papers, not all papers, not all the media, but some papers turn stories into Muslim stories when they’re not about Islam. So, to give you an example, a couple of years ago, erm… there was… it had been a local news story originally, about a swimming pool where, because of a lack of frosted glass on the bottom screens, a few people had complained, particularly women customers at the swimming pool, that, you know, people were sort of standing outside and looking in at them in their bathing costumes, and ,er… some of the people who’d complained happened to be Muslim, not all of them at all. A couple of newspapers ran this story as Mus…
Ann Leslie [interrupting]: I don’t think the Mail did.
Symon Hill: I… I… I can’t…
Ann Leslie: No. [editor's note: Yes, the Mail did - caution: Live Mail link]
When discussing violent attacks against Muslim women in the UK:
Ann Leslie: Yes, just simply, all round the world the m… the main victims of violence are women, of whatever sex, whatever age, erm… so, in a way this is a problem of men and women, and the way… and then this happens in Muslim countries. The only time I’ve nearly been raped was actually in a Muslim country, by a so-called devout Muslim. So, violence against women is all over the world. It’s not always…
Also talking about attacks against Muslim women in the UK:
Mohammed Shafiq: …is that, we’ve got to, er, you know, these women, and I’ve met some of these victims across the country, who’ve been spat at, and been verbally abused, and we would just like to see the same anger and frustration from politicians and commentators as we see when it’s the other way round.
Ann Leslie [talking over the top of Mohammed Shafiq]: One of the… One of the main problems is if you have a terrorist, er… component…
Mohammed Shafiq: It’s not just all about terrorism.
On Irish people:
Ann Leslie: No, hang on, if you have a terrorist component, a small one, in any group… Now, I’m old enough to have lived in London through the IRA bombings. A friend of mine was killed in a… the Harrods bomb, and I live quite near a very Irish area, with Irish pubs. Irish people, most of whom have been here for yonks, are not… you know, they just enjoy their Guinness, and all the rest of it, and sing Irish songs, but they found they were terribly discriminated against, and they would be spat at, “You bombers,” and things. Now that’s all stopped, er… you know, they don’t bother.
Making excuses for violent behaviour:
Ann Leslie: …it’s not an excuse, but the man who recently tore off a woman’s niqab, and made her, you know, feel terrible; A, he was a bloke who’d been on cannabis, which is an extremely, er… paranoid inducing thing, B, he was upset, and angry, because his girlfriend had left him, and C, and to a certain extent, I have sympathy, the niqab is, in itself, I’m afraid, an aggressive act. It says, “I want to… I want…”
I may be suffering from tabloid burnout, but the good people of the Health and Safety Executive aren’t.
Terms of reference
The Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism for anyone (whether on behalf of a company or organisation, or as an individual), who receives advice or is told that a decision has been taken in the name of health and safety that they believe to be disproportionate or inaccurate, to challenge that advice.
- The Panel will consider cases where advice is given by non-regulators (eg insurance companies, health and safety consultants, suppliers, contractors and employers) who quote health and safety as the reason to do or not do something, or where the challenger considers the advice be inaccurate or disproportionate.
- The panel will offer its opinion on whether the advice was correct and proportionate in terms of its interpretation of the requirements of health and safety legislation.
- The panel will not offer an opinion on the role of other regulators or consider challenges about issues that relate solely to another regulator.
- The panel will not consider cases where the health and safety regulator has made a decision – the Independent Regulatory Challenge Panel will deal with these.
How does the Myth Busters Challenge Panel work?
Members of the public and organisations will be invited to submit cases where they have been advised that they should or should not carry out an activity because of health and safety and they wish to challenge this advice.
- The Panel will consider the overall facts of the case. The Panel’s findings will be made publicly available.
- The Challenge Panel Chair is Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE and HSE Board member Robin Dahlberg is Vice-Chair. They are supported by a pool of independent panel members who have a wide range of experience and backgrounds in managing risk on a day-to-day basis.
UPDATE: Like The Sun in my earlier post, The Daily Mail have chosen to report on a consultation about giving police greater powers from the “poppy burning” perspective with their story, Law that put poppy burning fanatics in the dock faces the axe. This one is slightly more insidious than The Sun’s, because it hints at judgements on which people should and shouldn’t be allowed to voice offensive opinions. The consultation exercise is described as follows:
The proposal is part of Home Office changes to public order laws in the wake of the summer riots, which will also see police given new powers to impose blanket curfews and to force rioters to remove face masks.
Is it? Oh. I thought is was a consultation, not actual Home Office changes or, at least, that’s what the Home Office website says on its Consultation on police powers to promote and maintain public order page. ***Please note, anyone who would like to add their voice to the consultation can do so here. There are proposals in there which should concern everybody, such as giving the police “new powers to impose curfew to prevent and control outbreaks of disorder”.***
So, since the Daily Mail has focused on the one aspect of these proposals that may, or may not, allow future “poppy burners” to walk free, who should and shouldn’t be prosecuted for “threatening, abusive or insulting’ words in public”?
A member of Muslims Against Crusades, Emdadur Choudhury, was successfully prosecuted under the Act after burning two huge poppies during the two-minute silence marking the country’s war dead last November.
Choudhury, from Bethnal Green, East London, outraged war veterans by yelling ‘British soldiers burn in hell’. He was fined £50.
Daily Mail: [paraphrased] “Yes! He should, definitely, and he should probably be left in prison for the rest of his natural life, too!”
What about these people?
Religious groups have also criticised the law because the police have used it to arrest harmless Christian protesters. [Note: no attribution provided]
an Oxford University student on a night out asked a mounted police officer if he realised his horse was gay. [Note: charges dropped]
The law was also used to arrest two Christian hoteliers accused of asking a Muslim guest if she was a murderer and a terrorist because she was wearing a hijab. [Note: Case dismissed due to unreliable witnesses]
In May 2008 City of London police charged a teenager under section 5 for demonstrating outside the Church of Scientology in central London with a placard which said: ‘Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.’ Charges were dropped when prosecutors accepted the word cult was not insulting.
Daily Mail: [paraphrased] “No! It’s wrong to prosecute these people, especially those poor hoteliers. Honestly, you can’t even ask someone if they’re a murderer and a terrorist because of the clothes they wear any more. It’s disgusting!”
I’m not going to pass comment on any of the cases above, because that’s not within the scope of this blog, but let’s have a look at a small paragraph from the Mail article which is included towards the end:
Home Office proposals published yesterday argue serious and distressing conduct would still be prosecuted because it would be considered either abusive or threatening.
Serious and distressing conduct? It’s not too far-fetched, then, to imagine that Emdadur Choudhury, the man who burned a couple of large paper poppies and chanted throughout the two minute silence, would still face prosecution for his actions, especially when the words of the judge who sentenced him are considered:
Sentencing him in March, District Judge Howard Riddle said: ‘The two-minute chanting, when others were observing a silence, followed by a burning of the symbol of remembrance, was a calculated and deliberate insult to the dead and those who mourn or remember them.
‘If the memory of dead soldiers is publicly insulted at a time and place where there is likely to be gathered people who have expressly attended to honour those soldiers, then the threat to public order is obvious.’
It’s evident that both The Sun and The Mail have forced a story that wasn’t about abusing soldiers, or burning poppies, into an EDL-shaped hole. What do they make of this one, I wonder?
As you can see, their respect for Remembrance Day and what it represents is absolutely genuine… Oh, wait…
Well, anyway, what better way to ensure the dignity of the occasion than by inciting some more hate, with the chance of possible violence? Bravo, Daily Mail. Not transparent at all.
*Please note, I do not support the disruption of Remembrance Day by any group of fanatics, be they MAC or EDL. However, I don’t believe that misleading and sensational reporting by national ‘news’papers should be ignored as a contributing factor in any trouble that may occur.
With thanks to the lovely people on the EDL News team.
With Remembrance Day approaching, The Sun knows a few poppy stories will get them some extra hits on their site, possibly shift a few paper copies too. That would seem to be the reason for this headline (with accompanying emotive picture of poppy in flames):
It seems clear, judging by the headline, that government ministers are looking at legalising “the burning of poppies” and “the abuse of soldiers”. I don’t know if either of these acts are specifically illegal at the moment, but obviously The Sun thinks they are. If you dare to venture below the line, you’ll see comments such as:
I have just contacted the Conservative Party to show my discust and how Anit-English they are. I suggest everyone else to contact them too. Let them know that you are offended and discusted you all are.
What is wrong with the idiot’s who run this Country . What a Mockery they made out of the Wars All those People who died for our Freedom .we have no Freedom Britains Second Class in their Own Country . if we did anything to those who burnt the poppy’s and our flag we would have been jailed , in their Country would hav e been shot or mutilated . God forgive the Powers that be for sullying the names of all those Brave men and Women who died for us . Amen .
So what would happen if we burned anything to do with their religion?* I bet there would be a public outcry from their community to say we have slandered them and they must have justice.
Justice in this country is one sided, and it certainly isn’t on every true blue born and bred English person side. If they want to live here then they should respect us and everything that is British.
We respect their religious views and their cultures they should do the same.
*Editor’s note: I’m not sure when a poppy became anything to do with religion.
As you might expect, however, the Sun piece is rather misleading. What Graeme Wilson (who has the byline on this one) has reported on is a Home Office conference on gangs. The BBC report on the same conference says:
Launching the consultation on greater police powers, the Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said: “We must ensure officers on the ground have all the necessary legal measures available to them to protect our streets and keep the public safe.
“But we must also make sure any new powers do not trample upon traditional British freedoms – that is why we are seeking public views on the powers the police really need to keep our communities safe.”
The consultation will consider whether the use of insulting words should remain an offence amid concerns that the law is being used by activist groups and over-zealous police officers to undermine free speech.
Oh, so it’s not a proposal to legalise the abuse of troops or the burning of poppies. It’s a consultation on ‘greater police powers’ and whether using insulting words should remain a criminal offence. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of troops or poppies at all. The example given by the BBC is the case of an Oxford University student who was arrested after asking a mounted police officer if he realised his horse was gay. It’s almost as if the piece in The Sun, whilst containing elements of truth, has been created to fit a certain editorial stance, and possibly to generate a bit of foam ready for Remembrance Day itself. One way to test this theory is to have a quick look at the EDL Facebook page to see what reaction the story provoked (with thanks to @everythingedl and the good people of EDL News).
It’s like reading an extreme version of The Sun comments. Of course, it’s not the first time The Sun has incited such a strong reaction from EDL members regarding poppies, but I had hoped the Leveson Inquiry and the possible beefing up of the PCC might have at least caused a pause for thought before publishing such a misleading and sensationalist version of this story. Unfortunately, it seems not, and you can be sure that, if there is any violence related to this reporting, The Sun won’t accept any responsibility.
FURTHER UPDATE: The British Patriots Society, who are, apparently, “taking back our flag” from wherever it’s been, have plagiarised The Sun’s story and credited it to their own writer. The only thing they changed is the headline: Legal to burn Poppies!
***Please be aware, the last paragraph of this blog includes a tenuous link***
Forrins! In our schools! They can’t even speak English! So says the Daily Mail, in this story:
You see that? English is not their ‘mother tongue’! Perhaps it’s their ‘father tongue’ – who knows. The article itself includes such scary language as:
only four for whom English is their mother tongue.
In one of Britain’s most extreme cases
Many arrive at the school unable to speak a word of English.
One of the photo captions includes the legend, ‘Outnumbered’, in a subtext so sneaky, yet so obvious, that the writer saw no need to clarify who, in the Mail’s opinion, is outnumbered. This is such standard fare for this ‘news’paper that I can’t bear to go through it in detail. However, I would like to throw some positives out there for consideration alongside the article, in the hope that some balance and perspective can be applied.
The school singled out for attention by the Daily Mail is Bradford Moor Community Primary, whose website is available here. It has been rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, so it must be doing something right. Putting the rating in context requires a closer look at the report itself, because, as anyone who works in education knows, it’s not that easy to get a ‘good’ from Ofsted.
Here are the challenges faced by the pupils and staff at this school, as stated in the Ofsted report:
Most pupils enter school with either little or no English and are weak in home language development. The school serves an area of high deprivation and dramatic urban decline and ranks in the bottom 10% of socially disadvantaged areas of the country. Income and living environment indices show that 97.1% of the pupils are in the lowest 3% nationally.
So, the pupils at Bradford Moor are among the most deprived in the country. These children start out at a huge disadvantage, whether English is their second language or not. A table included in the report shows that the ‘good’ rating was shared by 50% of primaries nationwide between September 2007 and July 2008. 37% of primaries were below this standard.
Surely, given the deprivation experienced by the majority of children at Bradford Moor, the ‘good’ rating achieved by the school is something to be celebrated.
Reading the report reveals that pupils are now attaining at levels “around the national average from being well below.” This indicates significant improvement has taken place, and the report highlights discipline policy, good behaviour, a good attitude to learning, good relationships within the school and mutual respect between staff and pupils as important contributors to this.
Other strengths of Bradford Moor include strong support from parents, strong contributions to the local community, good achievement of pupils with special educational needs, good relationships with outside agencies, strong leadership and an inclusive atmosphere. What does a ‘good’ rating mean? Ofsted says it is “a school that is serving its pupils well.” That screechy, negative headline doesn’t seem so scary now, does it. In fact, for a school facing so many challenges, this seems to be a triumph of both education and ‘integration’, that popular buzzword so beloved of the government and nationalist groups.
I will leave the final word on this to Kath Tunstall, Bradford Council’s Strategic Director for Children’s Services. Quoting from the very end of the Daily Mail article, she says:
‘The fact that the children speak English as an additional language does not mean they do not speak English, and we know that young children learn languages very quickly.
‘Bradford Moor Primary School has a strong record of performance, having been judged ‘good’ in its Ofsted report following inspection in 2009 and this year’s provisional figures at Key Stage 2 show a 10 percentage point increase in English and maths since the school was last formally assessed two years ago.
I shall now make a tenuous link (finding the positive in the Mail’s negative) in order to publicise the rather wonderful master of satire, @DMReporter (Tumblr and Twitter), who has found the positive from Liz Jones negative and has raised an astonishing £21,194.41 (not including Gift Aid, and rising all the time) in aid of the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Somalia. @LizJonesSomalia is a recommended follow if you have a Twitter account, and you can read about how @DMReporter used cutting edge satire as a force for good here. I did say it would be a tenuous link!
Generic Daily Mail Reporter has struck again, this time with a headline that reads:
A breast-feeding mother has been ordered out of council offices after staff said it would ’cause an uproar’ among Muslim visitors, it has been claimed.
That seems very clear. Let’s have a look through the article and see if we can find the bit where Muslims have either complained, or are credited with being likely to complain.
‘She said “Oh no, we don’t allow that in here. We’ve had that many complaints that we don’t allow it.”
No, not there.
According to Ms Mitchell a manager then said ‘You absolutely can’t do that here’
Not there either. Hmm, I’m finding it difficult to pin down the offended Muslims here. Let’s see what one of the local councillors had to say.
Labour Councillor Shoab Akhtar said Oldham Council supports the right of mothers to breastfeed their children and actively supports it due to the long-term health benefits it provides.
But he added: ‘Unfortunately there are no breast-feeding facilities available at Access Oldham based at the Civic Centre nor are there any public toilets or baby changing facilities.
‘There is no requirement to provide such facilities at Access Oldham and we are committed to make the best use of the limited space that is available to provide facilities and meeting rooms where we can deal with issues that affect local residents quickly and effectively.
‘Not every building is suitable for breast-feeding and that is the case with the very busy, open-plan layout of Access Oldham.’
Ok, so still no mention of these mythical offended Muslims. The only hint I can get of this claim is in some of the things the lady who complained said, but even she didn’t specifically say anything about Muslims. Ms Mitchell said;
‘If someone from another culture started praying in the waiting room, I wouldn’t say, “Excuse me, you’re offending me” I would respect it because it’s their culture.
‘It’s political correctness gone mad when they’re worried about offending people of other cultures over something so natural.’
Whatever the arguments about this lady being able to breastfeed in the Civic Centre, why is the headline screaming about offended Muslims? The only mention of Muslims has come from generic Daily Mail Reporter, nobody else. The original story, written by Helen Korn of the Oldham Chronicle, also makes no mention of Muslims, nor is Ms Mitchell credited with any quotes about political correctness gone mad, or people praying in waiting rooms. You can see it here: Breast is best, but not in here!
I’m wondering if generic Daily Mail Reporter might be guilty of a little embellishment to make this story more attractive to groups such as the EDL and BNP, but surely that wouldn’t be wise, what with the spotlight shining firmly on the nation’s press right now. Giving the anonymous reporter the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Ms Mitchell was contacted for a quote after the local news had been trawled for promising leads, resulting in some glaring inconsistencies between the original story and the one published by the Mail. Whatever the circumstances, the headline on the Mail article is dishonest and misleading, with nothing to back it up at all. I know this is what we’ve come to expect from the Mail, but I’d hoped that the focus on press practices, and the mistrust with which readers regard papers now, may lead to more honest headlines at the very least. Sadly not, it seems.
*I would like to make it clear that I support the right of women to breastfeed their children in public places.*
It has been brought to my attention that the Metro also ran this story with the headline, Breastfeeding mother ‘told to leave centre to prevent offending Muslims’. The sub-heading for this one is, “A mother who wanted to breastfeed her baby in a civic centre claims she was ordered to leave because doing so might offend Muslims.”
This time, Ms Mitchell is quoted as saying;
‘A member of the complaints department said, “You’ve caused an uproar in there.’ She must have been talking about the Asian people who were in a room.
The bold is my emphasis. Notice there is still no mention of Muslims, just an assumption made by the complainant with no solid evidence to support it. The Metro have been as dishonest and misleading as the Daily Mail.