A ‘swvil-eyed’ attack on Islamophobia Watch

We appear to have upset the comrades over at Tribune, who have taken exception to our criticisms of their readiness to give a platform to Islamophobes, and to Peter Tatchell in particular (see here).

An item in the magazine’s “John Street” gossip column in the current issue reads: “Tribune has fallen foul of the sane and rational people at Islamophobia Watch. This website, run by self-proclaimed defenders of the faith, claims to expose anti-Islamic sentiments. Journalists, particularly on the Left, who deemed to be the slightest bit anti-Muslim, are subject to self-righteous abuse. More sinisterly, their pictures and details are posted on the website. Tribune‘s latest ‘crime’ was to publish a piece by Peter Tatchell which was critical of Muslim Council of Britain leader Iqbal Sacranie’s swvil-eyed [sic] rantings on homosexuality. Anyone wishing to complain to Islamphobia Watch is advised that they would be wasting their time. It is run by couple of devout democratic centralists and does not countenance debate, disagreements or alternative viewpoints. How very fundamentalist of them.”

You do wonder whether this is an entry for a competition in which journalists were set the task of fitting the maximum number of factual errors into a mere eight sentences.

Contributors to Islamophobia Watch are generally not “defenders of the faith” but are opponents of the discrimination, bigotry and hatred directed against minority communities under cover of attacks on their religious beliefs. As anyone familiar with this website will know, we criticise Islamophobia from all parts of the political spectrum – left and right, liberal, conservative or fascist. We do make a point of noting the overlap between the anti-Islam rhetoric of the right and that of the left. But this is because we are appalled at how a section of “progressive” opinion has lost its political and moral bearings and is prepared to form an anti-Muslim alliance with racists and reactionaries. The recent “March for Free Expression” was a case in point.

The articles and individuals we post comments on, and the illustrations we use, are all in the public domain. The “leftists” whose attitudes towards Islam we criticise – whether it’s Peter Tatchell, Nick Cohen or Maryam Namazie – are hardly publicity-shy figures who shun the limelight. They devote considerably more time and energy to promoting their own Islamophobic views than we do to exposing them.

Nor is it the case that contributors to Islamophobia Watch are “democratic centralists” (Tribune-speak for “Trots”), devout or otherwise, as any competent investigative journalist could have verified. As for the charge that we don’t encourage debate on the site, the problem is that if we left comments open we’d be inundated with offensive posts from the racist right, and none of us has the time to act as moderator. However, if anyone from Tribune would like to send us a justification of the magazine’s line on Islam – the uncritical coverage given to Tatchell, the abuse of the Muslim Association of Britain, the biased coverage of the Danish cartoons crisis etc – we’d be more than happy to post it.

Perhaps more serious, however, is the characterisation of Iqbal Sacranie’s comments on homosexuality as “swvil-eyed”. Sacranie was asked in a Rado 4 interview about his attitude to civil partnerships. He replied, quite moderately, that according to his religion sexuality is properly expressed between and man and a woman who are married, but that Muslims should observe the law of the land and that we should all respect each other as individuals and recognise our right to hold differing views. However, in the middle of this he threw in a stupid remark about there being medical evidence that homosexuality leads to people catching diseases. So, of course, the media coverage completely ignored the main thrust of his argument and preferred to run headlines along the lines of “Muslim leader says gays spread disease”.

On issues affecting the labour movement, most left-wing journalists have an inbuilt scepticism when it comes to assessing the accuracy of reports in the bourgeois press. Unfortunately, this scepticism deserts some of them when it comes to press coverage of Muslims. Perhaps the comrades at Tribune might try un-swivelling their own eyes.