Ann Leslie on bin bags
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…”