Islamophobia in Government: Meet the new Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries
Categories: Latest News
Wednesday September 15 2021
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, better known as the Culture Secretary, is an important Cabinet position. The holder of the role is responsible for overseeing a range of cultural institutions, such as libraries, sports, and museums, but also particularly importantly for Muslim communities; media and broadcasting.
Considering the high levels of misrepresentation and stereotyping of Muslim and other marginalised communities in the UK press, this is a pivotal responsibility, with organisations across society having spent many years calling for an accountable press.
Indeed, there is an urgent need to tackle endemic issues within the UK press, including but not limited to the failings of the current regulator (IPSO), a dearth of religious literacy across print and broadcast media, and evidence of Islamophobic editorial practices across major publishers.
As such, Muslim communities would hope that the person responsible for the press – a central component of democracy – would be mindful of the impacts that the spread of misinformation can have on demonising vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, with today’s appointment of Nadine Dorries, it appears unlikely that the new incumbent will afford such consideration.
Dorries has a reputation for promoting Islamophobic rhetoric, particularly on her social media platforms, including retweeting and commenting on misinformation shared by known far-right and Islamophobic sources.
Similarly, in 2018, she shared a misleading news story about Muslims being able to claim multiple benefits with their “several wives.” The story was ten years old and was being promoted by the far-right For-Britain group. While she deleted the tweet quickly thereafter, we can find no evidence that she acknowledged the mistake nor that she apologised.
An interesting incident that perhaps highlights Dorries general attitude towards Muslims can be found in her response to a tweet by the Mayor of London. Sadiq Khan shared a video regarding Islamophobic hate speech that had been directed to him. In response, Dorries tweeted: “How about, ‘it’s time to act on sex abusing grooming gangs,’ instead? #TelfordGrooming #Rotherham #Priorities #leadership”.
It is interesting that both Telford and Rotherham fall outside the remit of the Mayor of London – as they are not located in London. Therefore (unless Dorries was suffering some confusion about either UK geography or the remits of political offices), it would appear that she actively pushed the issue upon Khan in what can only be considered a reinforcement of inaccurate Islamophobic tropes and in such a manner that subsumes Khan’s Muslim identity within a framework of collective guilt for the deplorable actions of a few.
Meanwhile, following Boris Johnson’s article referring to Muslim women who wore the burka as “bank robbers” and “letterboxes”, Dorries argued that Johnson’s comments did not go far enough. She stated “I’m disappointed Boris didn’t go further. He could have called for a ban on the burka”. She further suggested that “these women are not free to choose their own husbands” and women were being forced to wear the burqa to hide their “bruises.” Such sentiments fuel Orientalist tropes and ignore the agency, voices, and experiences of Muslim women themselves, further marginalising them from socio-political life.
With Islamophobic and racist rhetoric being utilised and normalised by outspoken politicians across Europe, it is the disenfranchisement of minority communities that is the ultimate price. The consequence is that minority groups, and Muslims in particular, are being left feeling disillusioned, disenfranchised, and marginalised by mainstream politics.
At the same time, Muslim communities can have little confidence in the office of the Culture Secretary if the officeholder has a history of spreading Islamophobic rhetoric and misinformation.
MEND will be writing to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to seek assurances that tackling misinformation about minority communities will be a key focus of their activities in coming times.