Media's Cultural Offensive

Issue section: 

Hassan Mahamdallie's interview with the author of Communists in Harlem (July/August SR) usefully shows how objective racist divisions and inequalities in the US in the 1930s were supported by deep-rooted sensitivities and strictures concerning social mixing.

Today, with regard to British Muslims, however, it is precisely the liberal language of cultural openness and cross-fertilisation which provides the most effective means of dividing people. A distinct formula emerges from a browsing of recent mainstream local media treatment of the 'Muslim issue' in Bristol.

Amid tones of enlightenment and progress, four easy steps emerge: (1) identify someone who could pass as a spokesperson for the younger, modernising section of the community; (2) construct a story of a conflict between this dynamic new force and the older traditional constituency (eg concerning the question of whether to provide more mosque services in English, or whether to give voice to hitherto marginalised categories of members, or whether to put more effort into cultural outreach); (3) present such normal examples of inter-generational struggle within minority immigrant communities as somehow confirming that it is solely the community's own responsibility to tackle the terror-fostering extremism which, apparently regardless of wider historical context, thrives in its midst; and (4) don't dare mention Iraq!

Dave Weltman