Tuesday, June 28 2016

Panorama and Daily Mail misrepresent survey on 'honour' crimes

Panorama and Daily Mail misrepresent survey on 'honour' crimesThe BBC’s Panorama programme yesterday focused on attitudes towards 'honour' amongst Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the UK investigating ‘Britain’s Crimes of Honour’. The programme looked at some of the tragic cases where women have been threatened, imprisoned in their own homes, driven to attempt suicide and sometimes even killed for 'honour'.

As part of the documentary, Panorama commissioned a survey by ComRes into attitudes towards honour amongst British Asians. Notwithstanding the fact that the documentary highlighted the often criminal and fatal extremes of observing 'honour' amongst some communities in the UK, the documentary failed to use the results arising from the commissioned survey in an objective manner. As Islamophobia Watch puts it, “the Panorama documentary makers set out by assuming that support for "honour" based violence is rife within British Asian communities but found that the ComRes survey provided little support for this assumption. So the poll findings were not interpreted objectively but rather hyped up to suggest that there is solid evidence of widespread support for such violence.”

For example, the documentary highlighted the fact that of the 500 respondents questioned by ComRes 69% agreed that “families should live according to honour”. This sentiment was greater amongst the 16-24 age group (73%) than the 25-34 age group (64%). It also cited the statistic that only 6% of respondents thought it “right to physically punish a woman because she brings dishonor”, however that this rose to 18% when respondents were given a specific list of situations.

The documentary failed to point out however that when asked, “Do you personally think that there is ever a justification for so called “honour killings”?”, across all Asian communities (apart from ‘other Asian’) at least 94% responded “no”.

The documentary and survey findings were also covered in the Daily Express and the Daily Mail yesterday. Whilst the Express correctly denoted the survey as polling Asian attitudes, the Daily Mail headlined with, ‘More than two thirds of young British Muslims believe 'honour' violence is acceptable, survey reveals’. The article began with "Most young British Muslims support violence against women who 'dishonour' their families..."

Whilst 70% of Muslim respondents agreed that “families should live according to the concept of honour”, so did 64% of Hindus, 79% of Sikhs and 62% of Christians, and this question did not refer to violence. 94% of Muslims disagreed that “in certain circumstances, it can be right to physically punish a female member of the family if she brings dishonor to her family or community”. 94% of Muslims also answered “no” in response to, “Do you personally think that there is ever a justification for so called “honour killings”?”

The Daily Mail later altered the headline of the article having been made aware of its incompetence in interpreting the survey results accurately. Given that the Daily Mail is among the most popular news websites, such failings potentially have considerable ramifications.

Moreover, with newspapers relying too heavily, if not exclusively, on press releases issued prior to programme broadcasts the ability to contextualise such news stories is lost. For example, the Guardian on Saturday featured a report on the growing problem of domestic violence in the UK. The Guardian cited a study which found that, “There are two domestic killings of women each week on average, accounting for about 40% of all female murders.”

Assessing Asian attitudes towards 'honour' and 'honour-based violence' in correlation to attitudes and statistics on domestic violence in the UK provides a more holistic picture on the plight of women vulnerable to and threatened by gender based abuse and violence. It enables us to appreciate the wider context in which the ComRes study on Asian attitudes is situated. But that's hardly in the interests of the Daily Mail now is it? Moreover, it is worth noting that newspapers do not seem as concerned with the issue of domestic violence amongst the wider UK public, as illustrated in the Guardian; perhaps this is because it does not suit their agenda to foment prejudice and hatred against minority communities, especially Muslims.

You can see the results of the ComRes survey here.

The Panorama documentary is available to watch here.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 15:36

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