The Sun’s yellow journalism has only fuelled more Islamophobia

The Sun’s front page splash claiming that “1 in 5” British Muslims sympathise with “jihadis” has only fuelled that ever worsening Islamophobia, writes Dilly Hussain.

Yesterday, the Sun newspaper published an outrageous front-page splash with the headline, “1 IN 5 BRIT MUSLIMS SYMPATHY FOR JIHADIS”, with the photo of the infamous ‘Jihadi John’ to top it off.

Those with an ounce of intelligence would have guessed that this was an outright fabrication, and an embarrassing manipulation of the Sun’s own survey results. One can only assume, and it would be a rational assumption, that the deliberate distortion of the findings in such a manner served only one purpose – to demonise Muslims.

The Sun’s front page set the scene for a gross misconception, which will undoubtedly influence thousands of Britons who may not read between the lines. The subconscious link that many readers will make between British Muslims, “Jihadis” and ‘Jihadi John’ will further fuel the atmosphere of hatred and distrust that is so rife after the Paris attacks.

If there were any doubts among sane minded people about the Sun’s aggressive anti-Muslim editorial policy, the manipulation of its own survey results has been comprehensively exposed by Professor Steven Barnett in the Huffington Post.

Dubious interpretation

The Sun’s entire falsification was based on one question, “Which of the following statement is closest to your view”, with the following four responses for the thousand or so Muslims that took part in the poll: “I have a lot of sympathy”, “I have some sympathy”, “I have no sympathy”, and “don’t know” for “young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria”.

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The “1 in 5” figure was cited by the Sun when it combined the total of “a lot of sympathy” and “some sympathy” responses, which adds up to 19.8%.

I am no research expert, but I’m very sure that the ambiguity of “Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in the Syria” can in no shape or form validate the Sun’s despicable headline.

There are numerous rebel factions currently fighting in Syria, majority of whom who are also fighting ISIS. The bastardisation of the term “jihad”, which has become synonymous to terrorism, is deliberately deployed by the Sun to coin the opposing responses together. The fact of the matter is, as Professor Barnett rightly states, “we have absolutely no idea how many of those one in five have “sympathy for jihadis”.”

Survation, the company who carried out the poll for The Sun made the following statement:

“There is a distinction between the work we do and how clients chose to present this work. Survation do not support or endorse the way in which this poll’s findings have been interpreted. Neither the headline nor the body text of articles published were discussed with or approved by Survation prior to publication. Furthermore, Survation categorically objects to the use of any of our findings by any group, as has happened elsewhere on social networks, to incite racial or religious tensions.”

There is nothing more I can add to what has already been commendably highlighted about the Sun’s dubious interpretation of its poll from an academic perspective.


However, I’d like to shed some light on the timing of the Sun’s article, which could not have come at a more dangerous time, as reports have revealed that Islamophobic attacks in the UK against Muslims have increased by 300% in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Muslims in the UK have overwhelmingly condemned ISIS – both its heinous crimes and its claim to have re-established the Caliphate. Sadly, this is not enough for many politicians and media outlets. The ‘guilt by association of faith’ policy continues to be exclusively reserved for Muslims, whilst Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists are relieved from having to apologise for the crimes of their co-religionists.

The Muslim community have become experts in condemnations – they have been condemning terrorism since 9/11, but that has unfortunately not changed how they are treated and perceived by the powerbrokers within British society. Many Muslim community leaders tend to forget that the never-ending cycle of apologies reaffirms the false notion that Islam and Muslims have some level of blame for the actions of individuals who subscribe to their faith.

The Sun’s reporting was irresponsible to say the least, and it is this kind of yellow journalism that has proven to exacerbate racial and religious tensions, as we have previously seen with the Irish and Black communities. At a time when Muslim women are having their headscarves ripped off, children are being bullied at schools, and the elderly are being abused on public transport, what hope does the Muslim community have in the ‘free press’, whose duty it is to educate, to account, and remain impartial at all times?

There has never been a time like the present, where civic society and the general public must hold the media to account when it continuously spews divisive rhetoric. As honest and upright citizens of this country, irrelevant of our religious and political differences, we must never allow the passive acceptance of Islamophobia to become a social norm. The only way to ensure this, is to hold institutions like the media and the government to account, and calling them out when clear injustices have been committed.


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