The media coverage of the deadly terrorist attack in Egypt that killed 305 people exposes how mainstream Islamophobia is in the UK argues Tony Dowling
The response - or lack of it - to last week’s horrific terror attack in Egypt reveals the deep-seated Islamophobia at the heart of the UK’s media reporting.
At least 305 people, including 27 children, were killed and a further 128 were wounded in the attack on the Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, north Sinai.
Reports described five pickup trucks carrying up to 30 gunmen converging on al-Rawda mosque as the imam began his sermon and a bomb went off in the mosque as Friday prayers were finishing. The attackers stationed themselves at the mosque’s main door and 12 windows before opening fire on worshippers inside as they fled.
Despite this clearly being a terror attack, and one of deadliest in recent times, the BBC and other media labelled the perpetrators militants, attackers and gunmen rather than terrorists. And within days the attack has virtually disappeared from UK media.
There has been none of the usual blanket coverage in MSM, and similarly there has been no outbreak of social media memes to ‘remember Egypt/Sinai.’ Could this be because the victims were not just ‘over there’ but also Muslims?
The global responses to the separate incidents highlights just how imbalanced attitudes towards terrorism have actually become. And how the media does little to challenge the disturbingly normalised Islamophobic narrative.
And as if deliberately designed to demonstrate the inherent Islamophobia and imbalanced attitudes towards the reporting of terror attacks, almost simultaneously with the horror in Egypt Twitter went into a frenzy over a suspected terrorist attack in Oxford Circus.
The Daily Mail was unseemly in its haste to promote an atmosphere of fear, posting a 10-day-old tweet (which it has now removed) about a lorry attack which fuelled a frenzy of Islamophobia and xenophobia whipped up by far-right bigots.
Katie Hopkins tweeted: “The truth of our frightened country is all the texts from children reassuring their moms.”
And Tommy Robinson, posted: “How long until we find out that today’s attack in Oxford Circus was by a Muslim who was again known to our security services.”
There was, as we now know, no “terror-related incident” in Oxford Street. That, however, did not deter an outpouring of the usual Islamophobia.
Meanwhile hundreds of Muslims had been slaughtered in a real terror attack that prompted little sympathetic comment from UK social media commentators.
Whilst we should challenge and confront racism in all its forms wherever it occurs, these incidents of the last week are a reminder that it remains the case in the wake of 9/11 and the ongoing War on Terror, that the predominant form of racism at present is still Islamophobia.
Tony Dowling is a teacher, socialist, trade unionist, antifascist, anti-war & anti-cuts activist. He is currently chair of North East People's Assembly and a member of Counterfire.
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