The Daily Mail and its hidden messages about the Muslim community in UK

By Iqbal Tamimi

An article published by the British newspaper, The Daily Mail, on 27 May 2012, seems to reveal yet another proof of worrying press attitudes towards Muslims of Britain.

Entitled ‘Second and third generation migrants struggle to understand even basic instructions in English’, and written by ‘A Daily Mail Reporter’, it is an example of poor journalism, lacking proofs and statistics. It is an obvious effort to create an applique of bits and pieces of information to demonise a group of people.

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It is worthwhile to remind ourselves that any published article by a journalist means the article has been approved by the editorial desk and such material offers the readers a hint of the general policy and expectations of its management.

The first thing that attracts one’s attention is the language used in the title. The first impression is, the migrants totally failed to understand even basic instructions in English, which implies that other British citizens have no problem in understanding what the migrants have failed to grasp. And this failure is a trade mark of migrants.

Choosing the word even in the title, has already condemned the migrants, insinuating a hopeless case, and even those who did not study journalism know the inflammatory effect of this word on some people. 

If the article was about all migrants, I do not see why the Daily Mail has singled out Muslims by attaching a photo of two Muslim young girls wearing headscarves to the article, especially when according to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Centre there were 2.869 million Muslims in Britain; those include the highly educated English converts who are not migrants. The International Passenger Survey estimates show India as the top country for people coming to the UK with 11.9% of all immigrants, followed by Pakistan, (5.8%), Poland (5.4%), Australia (5.2%) and China (5.2%). However not all Indians are Muslims; the 2001 Census recorded 131,098 Indian Muslims in England, which means Muslims are only 13 per cent of the Indian immigrant population. Clearly people coming from Poland, Australia and China are generally non-Muslims. In few words, Muslims make a very small percentage of all migrants.

This leaves us with the question why of all migrant communities in UK, the Daily Mail has singled out the Muslim community to tell a story about ignorance and failure. When all Muslim ‘migrants’ are under 3 million, what is the real percentage of those who are struggling even to understand simple instructions? Is the percentage big enough to create such a scare or become a major concern?   

The Daily Mail claims ‘their [migrants’] poor understanding of the language means they are unable to take notes or understand basic instructions on training courses ranging from engineering to electronics’. 

So, the issue now is about taking notes, from engineering to electronics. This is confusing even for journalists; the photo gives the reader the impression that the problem is about Muslim young girls, yet the justification for this exaggerated issue is about failing to make notes at engineering and electronic classes. I wonder at what age people start studying engineering and electronics and what has this got to do with Muslim young girls wearing headscarves. I wonder if the Daily Mail reporter has done any research about the percentage of British English-speaking people who have a problem in writing notes on engineering and electronics.

I have reservations regarding the newspaper’s use of the term ‘third generation immigrants’. How many generations does it take to become British without referring to one’s origins? I can write a long list of names of immigrants who are academics teaching at UK universities, and business people who have done so well that they appear on TV shows as examples of success. Surely, they wouldn’t have done that well without excellent communication skills needed for their businesses. 

The Daily Mail claims ‘experts warn that low standards of English in some minority groups have been blamed for widening ethnic divisions and creating communities where it is the second language’.

Actually, it was not EXPERTS who claimed so; it was only one researcher the Daily Mail has quoted, and failed to adopt the balance needed in journalism by not mentioning other experts’ opinions of other reasons that might cause ethnic divisions in a society, such as irresponsible media campaigns. 

Is this article really about the language barrier? There are people of British origins, whose British family trees go back hundreds of years, who suffer illnesses and learning disabilities that affect their understanding of their own language and their communication skills, but the Daily Mail did not accuse them of ‘having difficulties in integration’ or ‘creating divisions in the society’ as it did when talking about immigrants.

The Daily Mail claims ‘Families deliberately discouraged their children from learning English’ and ‘those migrants do that to protect their culture and ensure they could talk to their grandparents’. The Daily Mail reached the nub of the matter by concluding ‘As a result, students were not able to go on work placements because they could not understand what employers were telling them’.

Is that so?

Research published by the Centre for Ethnic Minority Studies at University of London in 2005 says ‘research and initiatives confirm that there are limited data on the BME workforce within the built environment sector in the UK, particularly regarding retention and career progression of BME people. In considering BME professionals in particular, research is even scarcer. The limited existing data are nevertheless suggestive, and generally point to historic and on-going racial (and gender) discrimination within the built environment sector and professions, from education through to employment’.  How about that missing bit of information…

It is quite clear that the Daily Mail is insulting its own readers’ intelligence by throwing at them work so full of holes that it will lead to a dangerous leak of credibility. I suggest it subjects its reporters to some training to learn how to produce balanced journalism. I believe it would be also a good idea if the Daily Mail can instruct its reporters to watch Channel Four and learn few things about the positive change created by the so-called second and third generation of immigrants. 

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