'Islamic State'

The Sun’s ‘Unite against ISIS’ campaign divides opinions

This is a cross-post by Iram Ramzan

When I previously wrote a blog post about The Sun newspaper’s front page it was because it was tasteless and extremely provocative.

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The tabloid has gone for another striking front page today and it has created dialogue, but for different reasons. The headline says “UNITED AGAINST IS”, with a large photo of a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf in the colours of the Union Jack.

“The Sun urges Brits of all faiths to stand up to extremists,” the paper says. Gone were the bare breasts on page three (sorry India from Reading), and instead there was a Union Jack that was meant to be cut out, with which snap-happy Sun readers could take a selfie and post on to social media.

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Some Muslims and even non Muslims came out and condemned it, saying that it was absurd to ask British Muslims to apologise for the actions of the Islamic State. What are the odds that those people have even looked past the front page, opened up the paper and read the leading editorial and articles inside? The paper does not ask Muslim specifically to apologise for IS. It does not even ask them specifically to condemn or stand against IS. It asks all people to take this stance, although I was slightly disappointed that they had not appealed to those who do not subscribe to a particular religion – I am certain that they are united against IS, are they not?

One you get past the front page you will see that there are comments from Home Secretary Teresa May, Sun columnist Louise Mensch,  Labour leader Ed Miliband, Prime Minister David Cameron – those well known Muslims! I would have liked more comments from Muslims but if that had been the case then there would have been even more complaints that only Muslims were being asked to condemn IS. People will moan either way.

Others were slightly miffed that the paper had chosen a hijab to represent all Muslims. I don’t think anyone would suggest that all Muslim women do wear a hijab. But let us not forget. It is a front page, which means it has to convey the message in one photo or headline and unfortunately, whether we like it or not, the hijab is a symbol of Islam. When one thinks of Islam or Muslims, the hijab is one of the first things that comes to mind. A front page has to get the message across in one go which is why the story has to be more nuanced. Perhaps a better idea might have been to show people of all faiths and none together to convey the idea of unity. But that image would not have had as much of an impact as this one does.

Oh and IT’S THE SUN! What do you expect?

“But why The Sun?”, you may ask. Like it or not, it is Britain’s most-read newspaper by a long stretch. What better way to publicise a cause than to include it in the country’s number one newspaper?

Besides, some people are probably not aware that this is not The Sun’s campaign (though they have now hijacked it), but one started by Inspire, a counter-extremism organisation which, by the way, was created by a Muslim woman.

It was Inspire who launched the #MakingaStand campaign to ” reject the barbarism of the so-called Islamic State, to reject extremists and radicalisers including Boko Haram and Al Shabaab, who prey on our children and those who groom them for terrorism.”

Sara Khan, the director, wrote the leading piece on page 2 urging more and more people, Muslims and non Muslims alike, to make a stand and unite in the face of this barbarity.

Yes, I understand that the entire British Muslim population should not be blamed for what IS is doing but let us not forget that hundreds of Muslims from this country have gone abroad to join IS and commit all kinds of atrocities. They are a British problem – we helped create them. The aim of the front page was to get people to sit up and take notice, which it has done.