Mehdi Hasan, the Islamist apologist and political director of the Huffington Post has called for boycotts, strict regulation, and enforcement of diversity quotas to tackle “demonising press coverage” of Muslims. He presented his solution is a speech yesterday at a media event in central London.
Hasan insisted that the British press had proven “singularly unable or unwilling to change the discourse, the tone or the approach,” and that it would only do so if “there is some sanction, there is some penalty. This is not just about Muslims; it is about all minorities,” the Guardian has reported.
He suggested that there was a double standard at play in the industry, and that advertisers would have boycotted publications if they had carried stories on other minorities similar to those written about Muslims. “Therefore you have to ask questions about: does it need to be externally imposed, either by better regulation or via some form of commercial imperative? Though, that requires a separate campaign to get companies to give a damn about this stuff,” he said.
His comments came in a session titled “The Muslims are Coming!” delivered to an audience of media figures at media agency Mindshare’s Huddle event. Mindshare describes itself as exploiting “the space where data, content and technology collide to create memorable experiences for people and brands.”
During the session, Hasan presented a slideshow of British newspaper headlines which he argued alienated Muslims from the rest of the British population. According to Hasan, the headlines were not only morally wrong, but are also “dangerous and counter-productive […] because it increases alienation, […] and it also confirms the extremist narrative, the Islamist narrative that there is some kind of inevitable clash between the West and all of the Muslims living in the West, that there can never be any kind of reconciliation, that there is always going to be some kind of war between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“To pretend that all this negative, mad, crazy, over the top, dishonest, demonising press coverage is justified is wrong. To pretend that it has no impact on a minority community living in the UK or on our multicultural society, on relations between communities is naive, if not disingenuous,” he said.
Furthermore, in order to combat the Islamophobic culture he believes is prevalent on some publications, Hasan advocated a drive for diversity in the industry, arguing that “If you’re a Daily Express journalist writing some sort of anti-Muslim headline and the guy sitting opposite you is a Muslim it makes it much more difficult I would imagine.”
In addition, he called for “similar sized apologies for similar sized nonsense headlines,” suggesting that a front page apology was the correct response to an incorrect front page headline.
Hasan told the Guardian “I’m all in favour of free speech and the robust criticism of all religious beliefs. But it’s the made-up stories and the smearing of individuals and whole communities that I have an issue with. ‘Why isn’t anti-Muslim bigotry as unacceptable in the press as anti-Jewish bigotry?’ That’s the question that needs answering.”
In 2013 Hasan caused controversy when he told a Muslim audience “We know that keeping the moral high-ground is key. Once we lose the moral high-ground we are no different from the rest of the non-Muslims; from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals”. Saif Rahmen, author of The Islamist Delusion called upon Hasan to apologise for the comment, saying “I don’t want apologetics, nor condescending articles attempting to brush the matter off: I’d appreciate an apology with a sprinkle of humility. […]You might fool some of the British public by cloaking yourself in Arabic and throwing a cultural relativistic smokescreen over it, but not all.”
He has also attracted criticism for his hypocritical stance on the British tabloid press. During an appearance on BBC’s Question Time last year, in which the Daily Mail’s attack on Ralph Miliband, father of Labour leader Ed Miliband was discussed, Hasan said “Who hates Britain more? It isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, Muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”
Yet the Mail promptly revealed that just three years earlier, Hasan had written to their editor asking for a job. He wrote “I’m very keen to write for the Daily Mail. … I have always admired the paper’s passion, rigour, boldness and, of course, news values. … I admire your relentless focus on the need for integrity and morality in public life, and your outspoken defence of faith… I am also attracted by the Mail’s social conservatism on issues like marriage, the family, abortion and teenage pregnancies.”