Norwich South representative Clive Lewis has co-signed a letter by MPs opposing descriptions of British Muslims published in The Sun.
The newspaper published a column in which Islam was described as “the common denominator” in sexual assault and other crimes.
The column, written by former political editor Trevor Kavanagh, received criticism from politicians and the press alike. Kavanagh’s language was described as resonant of Nazi-era Germany.
107 MPs from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green party signed a letter addressed to the paper’s editor, published by The Independent.
The letter said: “It is shocking that in the 21st century a columnist is using such Nazi-like terminology about a minority community.
“We are sure that you are aware how media reporting about Islam and Muslims has created an atmosphere of hostility against Muslims and that hate crime against Muslims is on the rise.”
My letter to The Sun condemning the "Muslim Problem" article, supported by over 100 cross party colleagues https://t.co/Y86PMzWm7x
— Naz Shah MP (@NazShahBfd) August 15, 2017
UEA’s Labour Students’ Chair Tiffany Evripidou told Concrete the society wholeheartedly supported Mr Lewis’ signature.
She said: “We stand by Clive’s decision to condemn the terrible Islamophobic article recently published in The Sun. We believe that there is NO place for racism and discrimination and that all parties should take a zero-tolerance approach.
“The senseless and offensive article is an example of how the media has frequently targeted specific communities, particularly Muslim communities, and we support Clive’s actions in condemning newspapers and journalists for doing so.”
The only action to be taken as of yet is the removal of italics and capital letters from Kavanagh’s phrase “The Muslim Problem” in the article’s closing statement. This was seen by many as a worrying parallel with “The Jewish Problem,” a common phrase linked to Nazi propaganda.
In response to MPs’ criticisms, Kavanagh produced another column in which he refused to apologise for arguing the abuse of women by Muslims was on an “industrial scale”.
He said: “I can honestly say it never occurred to me that [the ‘Muslim Problem’ phrase] could be interpreted as a play on ‘the Jewish Problem’ and I will happily apologise to anyone who is thus offended.”
A spokesperson for The Sun said: “We strongly reject the allegation that Trevor Kavanagh is inciting Islamophobia. He is reflecting the links between immigration, religion and crime in the context of a trial of largely Pakistani sex gangs.”
Kavanagh described responses to the article as “fake fury” and “a pernicious attempt to stifle and smother free speech”.
Kavanagh then went on to criticise the Labour MP who organised the cross-party letter. He criticised Naz Shah the MP for Bradford West for her past comments about a “relocation” of Israel to the US.
The letter referred to other instances where the paper has been seen to discuss issues concerning minorities inconsiderately. The letter cited the tabloid’s widely-criticised “1 in 5 Brit Muslims sympathy for jihadis” 2015 headline, which was later determined to be significantly misleading.
At the time of reporting, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) have received 230 complaints about the original column. As a result, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have called for a formal investigation, claiming there has been a violation of Ipso’s Clause 12 on discrimination.
— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) August 16, 2017
Many people took to social media to express disdain towards the process both Kavanagh and The Sun will undergo through Ipso. Critics said it was a farce owing to Kavanagh’s appointment as an Ipso board member in 2016.