Less than 2 weeks after stirring up controversy by falsely claiming that Jeremy Corbyn refused to bow at the Remembrance Day Service, The Sun is has come under fire this week for publishing what many see as a misleading and needlessly incendiary headline about British Muslims.
The headline, which claimed that ‘1 in 5 British Muslims has sympathy for Jihadis’ inspired more than 1200 complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, a record number for the new organisation, which was created in 2014 in the wake of the Leveson enquiry into phone hacking at News International, owners of The Times, The Sun and Sky News. According to the BBC, the majority of complaints referenced the very first clause in the voluntary Editor’s Code; requiring care to be taken by news outlets not to publish ‘inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.’
Other newspapers were also quick to point out that the headline took a particularly sinister slant on the poll’s findings, with the Sun’s editorial tone blurring the lines between ‘sympathy’ (as phrased in the original question) and ‘support’. Survation, the company who conducted the poll on behalf of The Sun, also issued a statement, distancing themselves from the newspapers interpretation of its results, and pointing out that sympathy for those leaving the UK to fight in Syria, for any group, not only Jihadists “exists as a limited, minority view among both muslims and non-muslims, particularly among young people of both groups,” and that levels of support were almost identical between the two groups.
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) November 24, 2015
Clearly, the way this information was presented to the public, both with the focus on British Muslims, despite similar results being reported in the general population, and the lack of clarification over the wide ideological range of groups fighting in Syria was designed to sensationalise this poll at a time when tensions are already at boiling point over the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.
But with a readership of over 4 million people, The Sun’s continued attempts to mark as traitors anyone who does not agree with their political leanings can have a much darker impact. The independent reported that, since the Paris attacks on November 13th, islamophobic attacks in the UK have risen by 300%, with the majority of victims being women and young girls. This all comes in the same week that some US Presidential candidates are calling for Muslims to be forced to wear ID cards, or submit their details to a national database, meaning that Muslims across the western world are being subjected to open bigotry and discrimination, not only from the usual line-up of far-right xenophobic groups, but from mainstream politicians and media outlets as well.
This kind of reactionary, divisive narrative is particularly damaging at a time when we face threats from such a committed and extreme group as IS, a time when the only way we can hope to protect our values and safety is through unity, solidarity and a continued commitment to the freedom and equality that the enemy are so desperate to destroy.