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How Nigel Farage, Major Media Outlets and Ofcom ‘Normalised Islamophobia and Then Justified It’

Farage would be cancelled if he said the same things about Jews as he does Muslims – yet he gets endless airtime

Nigel Paul Farage presents his first show on GB News channel. Photo: SOPA Images Limited / Alamy
Nigel Farage, seen presenting his show on GB News channel above, has insisted some Muslims are trying to “change our way of life”. Photo: SOPA Images Limited / Alamy

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Islamophobia has passed the dinner table test and is now on the television screens. The fact that Britain’s major TV news channels are hosting and broadcasting blatant broadsides against British Muslims including the allegations that they do not subscribe to British values and are “trying to change our way of life” may have shocked some people.

Those who choose an occupation where all things Muslims are read and watched, know that this was not some one off.

Nigel Farage, bought the daily fodder of GB News on to mainstream news even eliciting shock and some pushback from Sky News host Trevor Philips

Those who have followed the trajectory of Islamophobia in Britian spotted the irony with Phillips having similarly opined just several years earlier that “Muslims see the world differently from the rest of us” and are becoming a “nation within a nation”.

Farage appearing on Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips where he suggested a ‘growing number’ of Muslims ‘loathe’ British values. Photo: Sky News

But as the US based journalist Mehdi Hasan writes, “It’s difficult to imagine any British media outlet allowing a sweeping bigoted dishonest rant like this about any other minority community in the UK.  Just change the word ‘Muslim’ to ‘Jew’ and ask yourself if the host would have been so friendly and conciliatory in his response.” Before any debate is had the answer we all know is a firm, no. 

And before we talk about how Farage and his fellow travellers have been allowed to proliferate their increasingly belligerent hot-takes, the question raised by some is why is Farage even being given the airtime?

This is general election season and the non-Parliamentary candidate has been given prime air time on the biggest News channels including the BBC, to not only repeat his mantra of immigration is bad, but to single out Muslims as particularly so.

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The BBC this week attempted to explain why Farage is so relevant saying in the nineteenth paragraph of its story that the Reform UK president singling out Muslims was merely “accusations of Islamophobia”, and that the man who has stood seven times for a Parliamentary seat and been rejected by voters each time, added “excitement” to the general election campaign.

It says something about the acceptability of Islamophobia when the national broadcaster finds excitement in what many consider out and out racism against one community. 

When one journalist dared point out “the customary inflammatory language” being used by Farage she was made to apologise, a sign of what is now acceptable by BBC standards.

Perhaps that is what journalism in Britain has now become, titillation and controversy for hacks and news directors and not the serious issues which ought to be the focus of election coverage. As the long time political editor of the Daily Mirror Kevin Maguire said: “Nigel Farage would be cancelled if he said that about British Jews. But somehow Islamophobia is acceptable in certain quarters.”

Those quarters might include the two main political parties given that there has been no criticism from Conservative HQ, or indeed the Labour Party, which is busy carrying out its own purge of Muslim and left-field candidates. 

 The justification for platforming crank figures who help boost anti-Muslim feeling is flimsy at best. Why should the voice that represents few, if any, be given the oxygen of publicity? When Anjem Choudhury of Al Muhajiroun fame was released from prison in 2021 a picture caption in the Metro newspaper, with a circulation of more than one million people, read how the firebrand “became the face of Islamism in the UK”.

A more accurate rewrite would say that Choudhury had been made the face of Islamism and given an undue platform by a media more interested in fighting culture wars than fighting extremism. 

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Farage’s intervention not the substance of it was hardly surprising to anyone who has been following him on GB News where a substantial amount of time is dedicated to demonising Muslims. The decision taken by many voters, a large number of them being Muslim, to vote for candidates who oppose the maiming of innocent people in Palestine has elicited Farage’s latest rancour.

Apparently we now have “sectarian politics” in Britain with Muslims daring to vote for whom they want and on issues that are important to them. That is not very British and according to the high priest of right wing right think they must “anglicise”.

How has it come to this where one minority community can be so blatantly pummelled with bile that we once believed was the preserve of the bad guys in history books.

Enter Ofcom, a broadcast regulator tasked with making sure that “viewers and listeners are protected from harmful or offensive material on TV, radio and on-demand”. Except it seems, if you are Muslim.

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Here the regulator has not had so much as a soft touch approach but a no touch whatever is said attitude. It is precisely this lack of action which has given the likes of Farage license to say things other people won’t say, the now standard line used in defence of targeting of Muslims.

It’s why GB News has over the last two years mentioned Muslims twice as much as BBC News and Sky News combined. And these are not just passing mentions but sometimes entire monologues where British Muslims have been described as a “trojan horse”, said to be dictating Labour policy, are inherently antisemitic, and are now engaging in sectarian politics because they, in that famous democratic tradition, dare to vote for whoever they want.

The visceral reaction of Britain’s media and the anti-Muslim contingent amongst its commentariat to the result of the local elections shows that it’s not the Muslim Vote but the Muslim voice which irks.  

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The othering has been a constant theme, offensive and harmful, which has passed Ofcom by. In it’s battle with the right-wing channel, which has seen the broadcaster hit back at what it sees as an over-zealous regulator, its worth noting that not one of Ofcom’s investigations have involved the mistruths and conspiracy theories said about Muslims.

Last month a presenter who was found to have shared racist content on a secret Telegram account according to the charity Hope Not Hate, broadcast the far-right conspiracy of Taqiyya, claiming Muslims were allowed to lie or manipulate the truth in order to get ahead. Fellow guests have claimed that Sharia law is in operation in large swathes of the UK – Islamic principles include not letting women work – and ‘how Islam supposedly teaches that non-Muslims are just to be conquered, destroyed they have to submit to Allah’.

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This is before the weaponising of anti-Semitism which has seen pro-Palestinian protestors being labelled as “Islamists” because that’s what they are frankly from none other than plain speaking Farage, and a barely disguised dog-whistle by another presenter saying: “They (Muslims) haven’t come to you yet, they’re worried about the Jews.”

All part of a pattern where everything a Muslim now does in Britain’s public arena is filtered through the paranoia of a right-wing which is increasingly indistinguishable from the far-right. 

Ofcom has regularly cited context as a factor in how it assesses complaints. The context here is that Muslims are being accused of disloyalty because they don’t particularly like a genocide being committed in Gaza and are using the ballot box to express that displeasure. But whilst it has come to dominate proceedings, Gaza is just the latest hot issue which has exercised a right wing who are in the midst of a forever culture war with Muslims the front and centre target. That is the context which Ofcom so readily ignores.


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