”I'm not racist, but...” Everyone, at some point, will have heard that disclaimer followed by a stream of patently racist nonsense. In the wake of the London bombings large sections of the British media have struck a similar tone in articles and broadcasts about Muslim people living in Britain.
All the media dutifully repeats the government’s line that most Muslims are opposed to terrorism. But what all too often follows is a string of assertions that precisely identify Muslims as an “enemy within”.
The Sun covers itself by talking of “peace-loving Muslims” before saying: “Britain is crawling with suspected terrorists and those who give them succour. The government must act without delay, round up this enemy in our midst and lock them in internment camps.”
It says there must be no freedom of speech for “those who preach foul sermons on our streets”. Who does it have in mind? An Islamic academic, Tariq Ramadan, who has unambiguously denounced the atrocities in London.
So it is not good enough for prominent Muslims to express their disgust at last week’s attacks. They have to become champions of George Bush’s war if they want to be seen as loyal citizens.
When they, like the majority of people in Britain, don’t, Muslim communities as a whole are placed under suspicion by much of the media.
Last Friday the Times, the Sun’s upmarket stablemate, insinuated that because Bengali people in east London didn’t want to talk to the reporter, they might have some dark secret.
Because most of the media has gone along with the official consensus that these attacks have nothing to do with what the British government has done in the Middle East, they fall back on talking of a particular “evil” emanating from “Muslims”.
The Daily Mail’s Melanie Phillips made the obligatory reference to the “vast majority” of “decent” Muslims before writing, “The root cause of this threat is a religion whose dominant traditions... have preached or practised... holy war.”
So, despite the disclaimers, we end up with Islam and, therefore, Muslims in general as the enemy. That gives succour to the Nazi BNP to inspire a small number of hardened racists to attack Muslim people.
In the interests of the “free speech” the Sun wants to deny to some Muslims the BBC has given the BNP’s Nick Griffin airtime to spout his filth this week.
Every news organisation will denounce racist violence such as the arson attack on a mosque in Birkenhead last weekend. But many of them are fanning the flames at the same time.