Press publisher Danny Lockwood considers our ‘Letter of the Week’
BORIS Johnson himself could have written to The Press this week, saying he was going to contest Dewsbury for the Tories, and it wouldn’t have displaced Elyas Patel’s letter of the week. That’s pure local newspaper gold.
We have history, myself and the Savile Town born and bred barrister. Three years ago he took me to task for comments about the highly secretive Markazi mosque. He’s a clever chap and clearly a good wordsmith – even if he does specialise in defending some of society’s vilest characters.
After our 2015 encounter I publicly offered him a column in The Press. It was sincerely meant and still stands. But I wouldn’t be doing justice to the very serious subject he makes fun of this week, if I didn’t at least try to rebut some of his criticisms.
The core of his attack – which underneath the puns is what it was – is a question: am I, and is The Press, Islamophobic?
Firstly, it’s interesting how the definition of ‘Islamophobia’ has been twisted to reflect the agenda of the far left, liberal haters. That is some hypocrisy given how ultra conservative and illberal local strands of Islam are.
Here’s my line in the sand Elyas. I believe in equal rights and respect for all men and women, of all faiths and none. Should you claim to match that moral assertion, I assume I am welcome to come meet your wife (without a veil) and for my son to potentially marry your daughter should they both wish.
It’s fine by me but if not by you, then I’m afraid you’re already out of the civilised, democratic, 21st century game old boy.
But let’s get the ‘phobia’ rubbish out of the way. It is supposed to be an irrational fear of something. I suffer from ophidiophobia. Snakes. They terrify me.
But there’s nothing irrational about fearing monsters who want to saw Christian people’s heads off, or blow them up, even if it means sacrificing their own lives, in the name of their Prophet.
Not your Prophet, you say? Well then please will you guys sort it out between yourselves, for everyone’s sake? But there’s no sign of that, sadly. Far from it.
I’m sorry that extreme Islamists discomfit ordinary Muslims getting on with ordinary lives in towns like Dewsbury and Batley.
But it isn’t as if it’s all in faraway desert hellholes, is it?
I can’t imagine the heartache of Savile Town lad Talha Asmal’s family when he blew himself up in the service of Isis. And has anyone heard the fate of his friend Hassan Munshi, one of two terrorist grandsons of one of Savile Town’s holiest and most respected clerics, Sheikh Yakub Munshi?
Mohammed Siddique Khan – remember him? Or are we supposed to pretend that never happened, or couldn’t happen again?
And do I sheepishly allow myself to be browbeaten by Islamophobia-shrieking apologists, for whom discussion of current affairs is mildly embarrassing? Because that’s how I interpret your letter Elyas.
So, sorry. Not on my watch. Not in this country, not in these towns.
If your wife chooses to wear the niqab, I’ll defend that right – but in doing so will reserve my right to consider it insulting, demeaning of women who are made to wear it, and socially and culturally divisive.
There are vast tracts of the Muslim world where the niqab/burkha isn’t worn as a cultural uniform. It didn’t used to be here, either.
So someone please explain why that would be, if it’s not just the same as the term Islamophobia – weaponised by the far left and Muslim community?
SO MUCH for the ‘phobia’. I’m not and The Press, edited by the rather liberal David Bentley, categorically isn’t.
Here’s the problem for people like Elyas Patel (who paradoxically makes his fortune specialising in representing Muslim criminals) – it’s called a ‘news’ paper.
We don’t go out and frame drug dealers or any other sort of criminal. We don’t cherry-pick which court cases go in our pages. If it’s in the public domain, it goes in.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said this over the years – it’s about the crime, not the colour or the creed.
But obviously – duh! – if one community is growing and the other shrinking; if specific criminal activity is predominant amongst specific communities, our coverage will reflect that. It’s as simple as that.
I’ve just received the daily magistrates court sheet. There are six North Kirklees names on it – an Ahmad, a Sheikh, a Khan, a Mahmoud, one eastern European Florin-Valentin and a Wilkinson.
Probably police persecution, don’t you think Elyas? In cahoots with the wicked media.
Apparently my ‘default’ editorial position when there’s nothing else in the news is to mock a Muslim.
Well, I’ve just checked the last eight weeks of Ed Lines. Of 22 items, big and small, five had some relation to Muslim matters.
There was the niqab piece that Elyas Patel objected to but every commentator in the country had their two-pennorth on, and my Tell Mama follow-up – so the same subject essentially.
There was one on extradition of the Jihadi Beatles, and one mention of attacks on Ahmadiyyan Muslims in Staincliffe.
Nothing to say about that story Elyas? About Sunni Muslim persecution of Ahmadis coming to our doorsteps? Cat got your tongue?
Oh, and then there was a piece praising the community efforts of Dewsbury South councillors Masood Ahmed, Gulfam Asif and Nosheen Dad. That kind of deflates the balloon, no? Saying nice things about Muslims? I know, it’ll never catch on.
Although actually we have positive community news pieces dotted about the paper every week. Again, we love to use what people contribute, whatever their background.
We’re colour blind on that!
Of The Press’s last eight front pages, two were about the local NHS, one about soaring Dewsbury death rates, one on planning, one on traffic, one on a push for town councils, and two about huge outbreaks of public disorder.
One of those was outside a Batley restaurant where a dad was beaten up in front of crowds – and his son – while police stood idly by. I’d call that ‘news’.
The other saw rioting men and youths attacking cars, closing a road and terrifying a neighbourhood and we had excellent ‘news’ video footage of it.
If they had been eastern Europeans from Ravensthorpe, or white youths from Dewsbury Moor or Thornhill, the coverage would have been exactly the same.
But they weren’t.
Still, it’s not just barrister Mr Patel who sees the world through victimised, Islamophobic eyes. Take our MPs, Paula Sherriff and Tracy Brabin.
When Boris Johnson made his niqab comments – defending Muslim women’s rights to wear them, mind – he received six Twitter broadsides from Ms Brabin, but more pertinently 13 from Miss Sherriff.
So far, so predictable. But when a further 31 alleged child sex traffickers and rapists were charged on top of 29 currently in the trial process – a great many of them from Paula’s constituency – there was nothing from either. Zilch.
It’s not quite as vile as Bradford South MP Naz Shah, who re-tweeted a comment that white children raped by Muslim sex gangs “need to shut their mouths for the good of diversity”, but nonetheless it’s a silence that speaks volumes.
I wonder if Mr Patel would care to offer a view on the ethnic and religious common denominator amongst the vast majority of those 60 accused.
I’ll give him a clue, just in case. It starts with “I’.
Or is that just the Islamophobic press – sorry Press – to blame again?
As I’ve said before, welcome to the debate Mr Patel. Feel free to keep it going.