Top journalist says Fleet Street is demonising Muslims

Dominic Ponsford

Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne has warned that British newspapers are part of a "dangerous demonising" of the country's 1.6 million Muslims. His article comes on the same day that the Daily Express apologised for giving the impression that the spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain was a "fanatical extremist".

Oborne is making the case in a pamphlet called Muslims Under Seige  — and in a Dispatches documentary to be broadcast on Channel 4 on Monday.

He cites a story in The Sun in March claiming that a bus driver ordered his passengers off in order to pray to Mecca as one example.

Oborne wrote in the Mail today: "The truth is that this bus had been taken out of service by an inspector because it was running late, and the passengers switched to the one behind  — not an unusual occurrence.

"The driver took the opportunity of a break and used it for his prayers."

Oborne also mentioned a press report claiming that nurses in Yorkshire were stopping caring for other patients so they could move the beds of sick Muslims to enable them to pray to Mecca five times a day.

Oborne wrote: "Caring staff would sometimes help the terminally ill in this fashion. But, as the hospital authorities made absolutely clear, never five times a day.

And he accused Independent columnist Bruce Anderson of "gross distortion" in one of his pieces, in which he wrote: "There are widespread fears that Muslim immigrants, reinforced by political pressure and, ultimately, by terrorism, will succeed where Islamic armies failed."

Oborne claimed: "Much media coverage ignores moderate Muslim opinion and serves only to increase hatred and resentment."

Today, the Daily Express apologised for a March 1front page article headlined: "Target Harry  — British fanatics threaten him"  — concerning his service in Afghanistan.

The apology read: "The article made reference to Inayat Bunglawala, who is spokesperson at the Muslim Council of Britain.

"We now accept that our article may have been understood to allege that Mr Bunglawala was a fanatical extremist who was inciting or would condone a terrorist attack on Prince Harry.

"There was absolutely no truth in these allegations."

The apology appeared on page 5 of today's paper.

* Dominic Ponsford works for Britain's Press Gazette publication.