Saturday, 16 August 2014

Islamophobia and the Chronicle: no to smears and scare stories

Newcastle: standing together for Palestine
I have submitted the following letter to the Newcastle Chronicle's letters page in response to this article

I was deeply disappointed by Saturday's front page smear on Newcastle councillor Dipu Ahad. The Chronicle turned a jokey tweet Dipu Ahad sent into a front page story implying that he may have sympathies with Islamic State jihadists. It is obvious that isn't the case at all, just from looking at the tweet. It is even more obvious when you consider Councillor Ahad's formidable track record of anti-war, anti-racist and Palestine solidarity campaigning in Newcastle, his role as chair of Newcastle's Holocaust Memorial Day committee, and his work in representing people from all backgrounds in his area as a councillor.

This is not simply a personal attack, but an Islamophobic scare story that can only encourage racist attitudes towards Muslims locally. It is therefore deeply irresponsible. It offers encouragement to the English Defence League thugs who were responsible for making an issue out of the tweet in the first place.

If a non-Muslim councillor or campaigner had done it, of course there wouldn't be a story in the paper, never mind on the front page. Such a ludicrous media response can therefore only discourage Muslims from getting involved in politics, as they are held to standards that do not apply to anyone else.

It is also a smear on the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements in Newcastle. Dipu Ahad has been one of the main organisers of recent protests and vigils in opposition to Israel's assault on Gaza. I know I speak for everyone involved in organising the protests in saying that we defend Dipu Ahad utterly and condemn such sensationalism. He has consistently worked with people of all backgrounds which has, in the process, undermined precisely the kind of fundamentalist ideology he is disgracefully associated with by the Chronicle.

Alex Snowdon,
Chair, Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign


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