The so-called Islamic Human Rights Commission has published a report entitled The British Media and Muslim Representation: the Ideology of Demonisation. That report does not seem to be online, although the IHRC press release is here. Rachel Cooke, in the Observer, is unimpressed by its methodology and finding:
Boy, it makes for grim reading – though not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Could its so-called findings have been any more muddle-headed? Like most liberals, it’s obvious to me that Muslims are having a horrible time at the hands of the media, so when I began reading the report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission I expected simply to have my hunches confirmed with a few hard facts. But no.
The commission talked to more than 1,100 Muslims, and their opinions it has reported faithfully. When it gets to the media itself, however, it negates this good work almost at a single stroke by falling into misreadings and cliches that, it seems to me, are every bit as lazy and dumb as the ‘crude stereotypes’ it seeks to reveal in other institutions.
The report devotes a lot of attention to films (Hollywood offerings, mostly – which is odd, given that its wordy title refers only to the British media), and its criticisms of some of them are perfectly fair. The Arab accents in Aladdin are ‘exaggerated and ridiculous’. The Siege, in which Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington and Annette Bening fight a wave of attacks on New York by Palestinian terrorists, does reinforce the idea of the ‘Arab/Palestinian/Muslim being violent and ready to be martyred for the cause’. But then it has a go at East is East and House of Sand and Fog, and you feel your understanding begin to slip away. I wonder how Ayub Khan-Din, who wrote the play on which East is East is based, feels about the fact that, far from finding his story of immigrant Salford moving and funny, even celebratory, the commission sees it only as fitting into ‘the negative perceptions people have of Muslims’. Even if this were the case, for crying out loud, it’s autobiographical – not some piece of unthinking propaganda dreamed up by crazed, white imperialists. Are people supposed to stop telling their own stories for fear that some idiots will believe that all families, everywhere, are exactly the same?
House of Sand and Fog turns on a non-payment of property tax. If recovering alcoholic Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) had opened her post, she would never have been evicted from her Californian bungalow, and Iranian exile Massoud Amir Behrani (Ben Kingsley) would not have been able to pick it up for a song at an auction. It’s a desperately bleak film about belonging, directed by Vadim Perelman, himself a Russian emigre to the US, and it is every bit as sympathetic to its Iranian character – proud, hard-working and, yes, by necessity, pragmatic and opportunistic – as it is to its American, pathetic and befuddled as she is. But no, the Islamic Human Rights Commission disagrees. It notes that the film includes a ‘negative description of the [Iranian] revolution, without enabling any detailed or balanced analysis of the event’. Ye Gods. Massoud Behrani has fled the revolution; he’s hardly going to regard it in a ‘balanced’ light, for all that there might be some he has left behind who think it just great news.
Rachel Cooke should not be surprised at the IHRC’s conclusion. The IHRC is not a “human rights” organisation in the ordinary sense of the word. Rather, it is a Khomenist Islamist pressure group, which organises the late Ayatollah’s “Al Quds Day” rally in the United Kingdom.
It is therefore only natural that the IHRC would regard negative descriptions of the Khomenist putsch as ‘Islamophobic’.
What astonishes me is that the IHRC is regarded as a serious organisation, whose views on muslim issues should be listened to. It should certainly not be regarded as a Human Rights body. This is, after all, the group which shortlisted – as Islamophobe of the Year 2006
“King Mohammed VI of Morocco For his ‘so called reforms’ aimed at removing Islam from the the Moroccan people.”.
The reforms in question were the prohibition of polygamy, and the legislation which made it easier for women to divorce their husbands. This the the IHRC’s definition of “Islamophobia”. This is the IHRC’s notion of “Human Rights”.
Incidentally, the IHRC has removed all references to the Islamophobia Awards 2006 from their website. I wonder if they even took place.
(Hat tip: ami)