Two smears, forming part of the barrage of attacks on Britain’s Muslims, fell apart last week. Both were splashed over the pages of the Murdoch press. Both proved to be completely baseless.
The first centred on claims that Muslims tried to scare four British soldiers from moving to a home in wealthy Datchet near Windsor.
The second smeared Mohammed Abdul Kahar, the young Muslim shot by police during a “terror” raid on his home in Forest Gate, east London, in June.
Despite lurid headlines about the house being a “bomb-making factory”, Mohammed and his brother walked free from police custody. But that did not stop attempts to smear Mohammed, including lurid claims about child pornography.
The Windsor story hit the headlines on 7 October, when the Sun led on claims that “Muslim yobs” were “hounding” four British army officers, recently returned from Afghanistan, from a house they were due to move into. The story claimed that phone threats were made to their barracks.
Readers were told that bricks were thrown through the windows and that the drive was daubed with “messages of hate” including the words “fuck off”.
Tory MP Philip Davies was quoted saying, “If anyone should fuck off, it’s the Muslims doing this sort of thing.”
Yet the whole story has proved utterly groundless. Thames Valley police have since confirmed there is “no evidence” to suggest Muslims were responsible for the vandalism and the barracks “did not receive any threatening calls from Muslims or people claiming to be Muslims”.
Instead it appeared snobs rather than yobs were responsible. The abusive calls made to the barracks complained that the soldiers’ presence would bring down property prices in leafy Datchet. Houses on that road typically cost £600,000.
A short piece setting the record straight appeared in the local paper, the Windsor Express. It was picked up on the www.ministryoftruth.org.uk website and circulated on a few other sites, including Islamophobia Watch.
As Socialist Worker went to press, the original story remained unchanged on the Sun’s website.
The fact that the story has turned out to be a complete fabrication has not stopped it going around the world, quoted by right wing publications as proof that “Muslim extremism” is running rampant in Britain and that we face a race war fuelled by a “clash of civilisations”.
The Forest Gate smear came in the wake of the botched police raid last June. The raid was carried out amid a blaze of media publicity, with Tony Blair going on record to offer “101 percent” support.
The raid was followed by a series of mysterious leaks, providing material for press stories vilifying the brothers.
This all served to distract from the central point - that an innocent man had been shot and a home destroyed after 250 police officers rampaged through it in the dead of night.
Mohammed and his brother were released on 9 June without charges, after being questioned for a week. The lengthy search of the house had uncovered no explosives or chemical weapons.
Then, on 30 July, the News of the World claimed “officers had unearthed a haul of vile kiddie sex pictures on the family’s computer”. Having being shot and falsely arrested Mohammed was being accused of child sex crimes.
Again, the claims have proved groundless. Forensic police examination of a Dell computer, an external hard drive and a 3G mobile phone found in the house allegedly turned up 44 indecent images.
But last week the Crown Prosecution Service admitted 21 of the images were “deleted”. The remaining 23 were “embedded” images that “could have been inadvertently downloaded by the user on the ‘coat-tails’ of other files” without the men’s knowledge.
What really puzzled the CPS was that some of the “deleted” images were stored on the 3G phone, which would have required specialist knowledge. “There was no evidence that Mr Kahar had possession of, or access to, equipment or the technical knowledge to do so,” concluded the CPS.
It was not even clear if it could be proved when the images were downloaded, created or deleted.
The lurid press allegations against Muslims will continue. These smears are part of an orchestrated campaign, which seeks to target Britain’s Muslim community. New Labour ministers are at the forefront of that campaign.
We wait to see whether the Sun or News of the World will publish an apology to Muslims in Windsor or to Mohammed Abdul Kahar with the same prominence with which they splashed the original smears.
But this demonisation of Islam has been integral to George Bush and Tony Blair’s war drive over the last five years.
New Labour is desperate to divert bitterness over the war onto the most convenient scapegoat.