I DIDN’T REALISE that Channel 4 had a hijab-wearing reporter until the spat between Kelvin Mackenzie and Fatima Manji back in the summer. That’s mainly because I don’t watch Channel 4 News, which is even more off to the left than the BBC (quite an achievement, though both stations are, of course, in receipt of public funds).
Mackenzie had written in The Sun about his surprise that Manji had been the presenter on Channel 4 reporting the news about the Nice massacre — you remember that one, where a Muslim drove a lorry into the crowds in Nice celebrating Bastille Day, and killed more than 80 men, women and children? “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?” he asked. Or, he went on, “Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male-dominated and clearly violent religion?”
Channel 4 claimed Manji had been “rostered” for duty at the time and there was no one else who could have done the report. Despite that claim, I’d wager millions of viewers had exactly the same thoughts as Mackenzie. But offence had already been taken by both Manji and Channel 4, who lodged a complaint with the the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). They alleged The Sun had breached clauses concerning accuracy, harassment and discrimination.
Miss Manji says she felt the article discriminated against because of her religion; that it suggested she was a “terrorist sympathiser”; and that it had “targeted her deliberately, causing her intimidation and distress, and whipping up hatred against her, and Muslims generally. She was also “concerned that the article had inaccurately claimed that Islam was “a violent religion”.” That piece of special pleading is now so laughable even the politicians and media have stopped countering it with the “Islam is a religion of peace” line. With a bit of luck this will be the last time we’ll hear anything about it.
Let’s give Miss Manji the benefit of the doubt and accept she truly felt intimidated and distressed (none of us would like to be picked out in a national newspaper by Mr Mackenzie, after all), but shouldn’t we, the viewers, expect some “sensitivity” from her and her employer? Did it not occur to Channel 4 that the sight of a hijab-wearing young Muslim reporting this atrocity might cause just a little bit of unease or offence to many viewers? Did it not occur to them that trying to make a point out of their own high-mindedness might cause further offence? Or that, as Kelvin Mackenzie suggested, make them think this was part of some TV news game?
It’s the latter that strikes me as the case. One thing we do know as viewers is that those in the media know better than us: we’ve proved ourselves to be racist, xenophobic Islamophobes, and it’s their job to make sure we get a face full of multicultural correctness as often as possible.
Luckily IPSO dismissed all of the claims against The Sun. It also rejected an appeal by Manji, who is now frightened it is “open season on minorities on Muslims and on minorities in particular” (neat Corbynian trick there — widen your grievance by chucking in unnamed other groups). There is an answer to this: how about one minority in particular not declaring open season on the rest of us, the majority, for a change? How about putting an end to the hacking, stabbing, bombing, shooting, hate-speaking, special pleading and grievance mongering? It would do wonders for community relations.
All I’m waiting for now is for the BBC to make a point of having the main news regularly delivered by a young woman in a hijab. That will really stick one in our eye, as Mackenzie would say. It’s only a matter of time.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.