The British press has responded to the events in Mumbai with a frenzy of sensationalist and unsubstantiated claims about the involvement of British Muslims in the attacks.
Headlines on many of last Saturday’s newspapers blared that British Muslims were connected to the killings.
The claims, supposedly originating with Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra, were swiftly repudiated by him and rejected by the foreign office.
The extent of this alleged “connection” varied wildly.
The Independent feebly asserted that “security chiefs” were “probing claims” of a possible connection – while arguing in a separate story that British Muslims had become “a mainstay of the global ‘jihad’ based on a claim by anonymous “security agencies”.
The Daily Telegraph queried whether two of the gunmen might be British. The Sun was more direct – “Two Gunmen From Bradford” it unequivocally proclaimed. The Mirror in turn bumped the number of “British gunmen” from two to seven.
The most aggressive headlines simply asserted without qualification that the “Butchers Of Mumbai Are Brits” in Daily Express and the Daily Star’s “Mumbai Killers Are Brits”.
This is no surprise. Both papers are owned by porn baron Richard Desmond and have been responsible for a flurry of Islamophobic stories.
The claims of British Muslim involvement continue to gather steam. The Mail on Sunday claimed that a Kashmiri group Lashkar e-Toiba were responsible for the attacks and were “funded with cash raised in British mosques”, though it provided no source for its allegation.
The Telegraph reported on Monday that a convicted British plotter, Kazi Nurur Rahman, was “associated with the same terrorist group that is accused of the attack in India”.
The basis of this claim was that Rahman was associated with one Omar Khyam, who in turn was trained by Lashkar-e-Toiba. Aside from the flimsiness of the “connection”, no one at present knows who was behind the massacre.
For the press, seemingly, evidence is an unnecessary luxury when the task is to demonise British Muslims.
Richard Seymour is the author of The Liberal Defence of Murder, available from the Bookmarks bookshop, phone 020 7637 1848