The New York Times is still finding ways to stay on the snobbish losing side against the popular movement for national sovereignty known as Brexit, by relating any violent crime against an immigrant or Muslim to the U.K’s June 2016 vote to withdraw from the European Union.
Reporter David Kirkpatrick made Saturday’s front page by tying Brexit to “Islamophobia” in a sympathetic profile of a mosque in the London suburb of Barking under an overheated headline: “They’re Loathed as Outcasts, but This Is Home.” The subhead is “Losing London – A Backlash Against Muslims.” The online headline emphasized the Brexit angle: “In Brexit-Era London, a Mosque Sits Between Two Types of Hate.” It’s part of the series “Losing London.” The paper promises: “Articles in this series examine whether ‘Brexit’ will sink a great global city.” Gee, wonder what the Times thinks?
Few, if any, major Western cities have been more open to Muslims than London. More than 12 percent of Londoners are Muslim. Eighteen months ago, this became the first Western capital to elect a Muslim mayor, a milestone for residents proud of their multicultural ethos.
Now, though, religious hate crimes are up nearly 30 percent, primarily against Muslims. At his mosque, Mr. Siddique is hiring extra security guards to protect his congregants. Muslim women have complained about being spit on, or cursed.
What has brought these tensions to the surface? Brexit and terrorism.
Kirkpatrick doesn’t question, as his colleagues occasionally have, whether those numbers may be due to a higher rate of reporting “hate crimes” post-Brexit. Instead he lambasted the successful vote to leave the EU.
Britain’s unexpected vote in June 2016 to exit the European Union -- only a month after London elected Sadiq Khan as mayor -- was fueled by a nationwide campaign infused with anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant venom. Then, after a decade without Islamist terrorist attacks, this year Britain has suffered four, including an assault by Islamist terrorists in June that killed eight people at London Bridge and Borough Market.
Even as crowds of Londoners came out to mourn -- and to show their commitment to the city’s inclusive spirit -- the dynamics of daily life shifted for many mainstream Muslims. Brexit and the terrorist attacks have given bigots license to express hostility, many Muslims say, or to label them all as terrorists, or to tell them to go home -- as if London were not their home.
Kirkpatrick didn’t ignore the extremism problem, but it was far from the story’s focus.
For years, Al Madina Mosque has sat uncomfortably on a fault line between the Islamist radicalism of the terrorist attacks and the white nativism intertwined with Brexit.
One of the plotters of the London Bridge attack, Khuram Butt, was radicalized a few blocks to the north, in Ilford. There, a notorious jihadist recruiter, Anjem Choudary, built a following before going to jail last year, even as Mr. Siddique sought to keep him from influencing congregants at Al Madina.
Margaret Hodge, a member of the Labour Party who represents Barking in Parliament, said that at open coffee hours with constituents after Brexit, she immediately began hearing: “ ‘Oh, Margaret, it is all right. We have got our country back.’ ”
“That is code for: Barking and Dagenham will go back to what it was in the 1950s -- predominantly white -- which of course is not going to happen.”
Kirkpatrick, in typical Times fashion, downplayed the deadly terror attacks by radical Islamists and skips ahead to the epidemic of “Islamophobia,” or at least the threat of future Islamophobia, which may or may not be actually increasing in the U.K.
Mr. Choudary never stuck around long enough for a confrontation. But the wave of anti-Muslim sentiment around last year’s Brexit vote and this year’s terrorist attacks has only made recruiters more dangerous, Mr. Siddique said, by arming them with new evidence to argue that the West is at war against Islam.
London correspondent Stephen Castle kept the blame focus for everything on Brexit under an unjournalistic headline on November 8: “Crises Keep Piling Up In Brexit-Torn Britain.” Castle shoehorned Brexit into a story about two members of the Conservative Party currently under fire, foreign secretary and Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson, and Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel.
Yet, Mr. Johnson and Ms. Patel were leading campaigners for Brexit in the referendum, and Mrs. May therefore found them cabinet jobs -- a big one in the case of Mr. Johnson, one of the public faces of the campaign to leave the European Union.
Proving Brexit can be blamed for everything, see the paper’s online headline on an October 17 report: “U.K. Reports Big Rise in Hate Crime, Citing Brexit and Terrorist Attacks.” Reporter Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura:
The referendum on British membership in the European Union and several terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing after a concert in Manchester, England, have helped drive hate crimes in Britain to record levels, official figures showed on Tuesday.
The “Brexit” campaign last year to leave the European Union was supported by some right-wing and nationalist groups, and the vote gave rise to concerns that minorities and immigrants would be more vulnerable to hate crimes.
In addition, provisional data collected around the time of terrorist attacks this year in London and in Manchester, where the bombing outside the Ariana Grande concert left 22 dead, found that hate crimes soon followed the attacks.
Note the bombing by a radical Islamist that killed 22, including many young people, is not considered a “hate crime.”
Freytas-Tamura at least mentioned a caveat:
But the rise can be attributed in part to increased public awareness and changes in the law, which broadened the definition of hate crimes to the point that almost any verbal or physical assault can be categorized as one if the victim interprets it as such.
“I think they’ll continue to rise,” Professor Iganski said. “As the Brexit negotiations become more entrenched, they’re a constant reminder of the position of eastern European migrants, contributing to a climate of hostility. As we draw closer to the deadline, and as negotiations get tougher, the climate is going to get worse. And every time we have a terror attack there’ll be a backlash. Each time it goes up a notch.”