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Trivialising hate crimes, Mail style

October 14, 2010

Picture the scene: You’re out shopping in an upmarket suburb when a stranger strides up to you. The stranger starts berating you for what you’re wearing, and demands you remove it. When you refuse, the stranger starts punching, slapping and biting you until they manage to rip the offending clothing from you. You’re left with cuts and bruises, must take time off work and have been so deeply affected by the unprovoked attack that you end up leaving the country. Now imagine a national newspaper in another country picks up the story, trivialising the attack on you whilst giving your attacker plenty of column inches in which to justify their disgraceful behaviour.

***edit*** Please visit Three hypotheticals and an actuality, by ThisWickedDay,  for an excellent post about this story.

If it was going to be any paper, it would be the Daily Mail, and they haven’t let us down.  ‘Burka rage’ teacher faces jail in France after ripping off Muslim woman’s face veil shouts the headline of Peter Allen’s article.  The obligatory stock photo of ‘woman in burka, posed by model’ (one of two I see The Mail use regularly) illustrates the story as expected.  It concerns a racist attack on a woman who was out shopping in an ‘upmarket suburb’ of Paris who was violently assaulted because of the clothes she was wearing.

The attacker, a 63 year old retired teacher known only as Marlene, is quoted throughout the report to ensure she has plenty of space to justify her violent actions.  She says:

‘I knew I would crack one day,’ said Marlene. ‘This whole saga of the burka was really getting to me.’

‘I told her to take off the veil she had on her face. I grabbed and pulled it. ‘To me wearing a full veil is an attack on being a woman. As a woman, I felt attacked.’

‘I went over to her and tore her veil,’ said Marlene in a police report. ‘We came to blows. I was very upset.’

‘Marlene said: ‘I’ve taught in countries like Morocco and Saudi Arabia and know how these women walk three paces behind their husbands.

‘When I saw a burka in a Paris shop I thought it was very provocative. I did not hit or use any violence against this woman. I just wanted to pull her burqa off. I know I shouldn’t have got angry, but I lost it.’

Contrary to Marlene’s words, the article says;

A few minutes later Marlene is said to have started hitting Shaika, who refused to take her veil off.

After allegedly slapping Shaika, Marlene bit her hand before successfully removing the veil, shouting: ‘Now I can see your face.’

Security guards had to separate the women, with one describing the fight as being motivated by ‘pure burka rage’.

Shaika suffered cuts and bruises and had to take two days off work. She was so upset that she has now left France and returned to the Emirates, and will not attend today’s court case.

It sounds like a pretty violent attack to me.  Marlene’s defence was that  ‘we do not wear the burka in my country’, although the ban on burkas wasn’t yet in force.

Even if it was, it would not be up to people to make citizen’s arrests, said a legal source involved in the case.

The victim of the attack, a 26 year old named as Shaika, has, unsurprisingly, been quite severely affected by it.

Lotfi Ouled Ben Hafsia, for Shaika, said his client had been living in Paris for three years, but would never return because of the ‘racist attack’.

However, instead of condemning the behaviour of the attacker, Peter Allen closes his article  with the comment:

It is now a criminal offence to wear a burka in France, with woman facing fines and even a prison sentence when the law is enforced in six months time.

It seems almost as if he’s trying to imply that Shaika is the criminal, despite the fact that the ban wasn’t in place at the time of the attack on her.  There doesn’t appear to have been any attempt to contact her prior to writing this article, and to headline it as ‘burka rage’ gives the impression that the journalist really doesn’t take the whole episode very seriously at all.

The daily drip feed of such articles has a toxic effect on the readership of The Mail, as can be seen in this selection of quotes from the comments section which support the violent, criminal behaviour of Marlene:

Trish from Rossendale says:

I symathize with Marlene. I also feel very angry when I see women wearing a face veil. The wearing of the burka is alien to the British culture and it’s intimidating to see a person clothed in black from head to foot with only their eyes visible. A ban on the burka should become law as soon as possible.

Kate from Nottingham says:

Good for her, and good for the French who are trying to ban these appalling, offensive garments. We shold do the same.

Bill from Birkenhead says:

Not racist at all.Well done Marlene.

Very Annoyed of UK says:

I think she should get a medal. I’d ban it in an instant.

Where am I? Britain you say…are you sure? from Wales says:

I know exactly how this woman feels; whilst I have never acted upon it, I am sickened every time I am in the vicinity of faceless muslim women. It is not empowerment, it is not based on religion. It is divisive, it is socially corrosive.

I suspect more incidences of ‘rage’ will occur in France and any woman in France who elects to break the law has to to bear a portion of responsibility if she finds herself the recipient of such.

It’s sad to think such sensible laws will never occur in the UK.

Tom from Birmingham says:

Marlene did what lots of us want to do. The veil is an insult women and a provocative gesture at our society. The sooner we follow the lead of other countries and ban this anachronism the better for us all.

On and on they go.  One commenter, who has fallen completely for The Mail’s tactic of trying to make Shaika out as the criminal, goes so far as to say:

I think it is so damn rude and ignorant to wear one!

The Burkha has been banned in France so it should be Shaika who gets 3 years NOT Marlene!!

That comment is an illustration, if ever you needed one, of the effect that burying important details near the end of an article has.  People don’t always read the whole thing before reacting.  It says in the text, ‘in fact no ban was in place in February’, but it seems this particular commenter didn’t bother reading as far as that.  I really don’t know why someone’s choice of clothing is seen as such a frightening thing, or why it engenders such anger in people.  I also don’t know how anyone could support violently removing a total stranger’s clothing for no other reason than not liking it.

The comments section often does contain less extreme views, (those that make it through pre-moderation, although you do have to go looking for them due to the red arrow brigade), so I’ll close with the words of  Jonathan from Derbyshire, a voice of sense in a sea of foam:

Next time a teenager assaults a retired English teacher in the street, I hope you allow him to defend his actions throughout the piece. If he says he “felt attacked” by the way she dressed and it was “really getting to” him and he was “so upset” I’m sure your readers will be sympathetic.

Thank you Jonathan, and well done for getting that one past the moderators.

*Hat tip to Atomic Spin for drawing my attention to the article

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2010 3:38 pm

    Excellent blog piece, really cutting to the heart of the matter. Attacking somebody because you don't like their clothes is not acceptable in any way. It is no more acceptable to do this to a woman wearing a veil, as it would be to attack somebody wearing a Ché Guvara t-shirt because you hate communism, or to try and rip a UKIP rosette off a supporter leafleting in the town centre because you hate the party and what it represents. Just because we don't like things, however strongly, we do not have the right to ever assault somebody because they differ in their views. – Aoife Tobin, United Shades of Britain.

  2. October 14, 2010 5:49 pm

    There's an interesting subtext to this Mail article. Notice the prominence they place on 'Teacher' in the headline? (In reality, the woman was a retired teacher but let's not let facts get in the way.)The subtext is that the Mail is subtley letting their readership know that it's OK for the middle classes to hate women in burkas too. And if you hate them, then it's OK to attack these women. After all, if a teacher can do these things then it must be OK, right?The Fail: drawing on, supporting and enabling prejudices and hate since its inception.Ed McB, United Shades of Britain

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