Regional press careful not to fuel anti-Muslim feeling

Evening newspapers in areas with large Muslim communities have been treading a careful path in covering the terrorist attacks in the US. Many of their  Muslim readers fear reprisals.

The Oldham Evening Chronicle was itself attacked during race riots in May.  Deputy editor Dave Whaley told Press Gazette: "We have been trying to tie links with the local Muslim community since then. We are aware the tensions are there but we don’t want to highlight them.

"If we do too much coverage, we are seen as encouraging others to get involved.  We’re between a rock and a hard place all the time."

When a mosque was attacked last week and the Muslim community wanted to keep it quiet, the newspaper, said Whaley, persuaded them it should be reported "because a lot of people will know about it. If we don’t report it, it will appear to other people within the community that we have chosen to ignore it."

The paper has a substantial readership in touch with relatives on the frontier of Afghanistan, who could well be affected.

The Evening Chronicle has put the community leaders’ case about the impact of terrorism on their people.  "We had a lot of calls for calm, a lot of letters – mainly from Muslim leaders and some Christian church groups."

But Whaley reluctantly admits Oldham will have the spotlight turned on it again "if anything does start to go off". He added: "This week Oldham won an award in the North West in Bloom contest," he said.  "Our picture of nice, flame-red roses in the town centre wouldn’t make a national’s front page, but flame pictures will."

Meanwhile in Leicester, which has a mainly Hindu ethnic population with a significant minority of Muslims, the overall image has been one of a city united in grief and shock, not divided by it, said Leicester Mercury editor Nick Carter.

He said there had been no evidence of racial attacks but in the week of the terrorist atrocities there was the danger of tensions building.

Carter called together a group he had founded – representing all the different communities, the media, police and local authority – to identify the dangers after isolated reports of derogatory remarks being directed at some Muslims. The Mercury then produced a page of statements from all the religious community groups calling for unity and calm.


By Jean Morgan

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