Sunday, September 03, 2006

Good Golly, Miss Molly

Or should that be Misbah. This is the story of 12-year old girl from Stornoway who became the subject of a kidnapping story in the press last week. The papers and the news bulletins screamed that 12 year old Molly Campbell had been snatched along with her sister and spirited away to Pakistan where her evil father was forcing her into marriage to a man twice her age. It wasn't until Mohammed Sarwar, the labour MP for Glasgow decided to pay a visit, that it became apparent that there was no kidnapping, no forced marriage and all the hype and baloney written as fact were actually a fiction. Misbah Iram AhmedRana (who objected to being called Molly Campbell) had apparently run away from her mother to be with her siblings and father in Pakistan. Despite this, the press are still referring to her as Molly or Molly aka Misbah Rana. Scottish Muslims and politicians have slammed the media coverage as 'smacking of racism' and accused media of allowing latent racism to creep into their reporting. This is of course nothing new. It is blatantly obvious that the press wanted this to be another 'evil Pakistani father forces little girl into marriage in barbaric country' episode. This is a well worn groove. The headlines were already made, before the facts became clearer. The story was already written before the reporters had bothered to determine the circumstances. It was much easier to take the mother's side, add a bit of hype, stir in some racial prejudice, snobbery and stereotypes and finally bring to the boil. "My identity as a Muslim and a Pakistani has something to do with it, the whole thing is blown out of proportion," said Misbah's father Sajjad Rana. What's even worse is the fact that Misbah insists that she actually wants to live in Pakistan. "I like Pakistani culture and values and I want to live here with my dad and sister and brother," she said. Clearly her evil father has brainwashed her with his islamofascistopaki ideology. To western reporters this is ridiculous. How could somebody prefer living in a dirty, smelly backward country like Pakistan when they could have the latest DVDs, sky movies and 24/7 access to delightful western consumer products.

One should not belittle the problem of forced marriage or use this story to hide the problem. Yet, put in perspective forced marriages are extremely uncommon in relative terms compared to the huge number of normal arranged marriages, where consent is sought and given. But, there is no excuse for the deliberately racist and xenophobic attitude that prevails in the media today. In fact the Daily Mail's headline today on this story is “Father given custody of Molly - because her mother's a Christian”. No acceptance of her real name and no acceptance of a Pakistani court judgment. Let's turn this into a clash of civilisations story (again).


Anonymous M Cotton said...

This is disturbing. Is there a recorded interview with Mizbah and her father? It sounds as though Mizbah's dad could sue some of those papers for the things they wrote.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Kebz said...

Thanks for stopping by Miriam. Part of the press conference are available on the BBC website

I don't think in this case legal action would be successful mainly because the press can claim that they took the information directly as given by Misbah's mother and mother's family. I understand the divorce was very bitter which may explain some of their behaviour. Thus, any action would have be taken against the mother which I don't think the dad is contemplating at this time.

The BBC's Kevin Bakhurst also blogged on the approach they took to this story. He says "I think we now feel that we probably didn't show enough sophistication in covering the story on the first day. We accepted on face value the words of Molly's mother and her grandmother. However, I don't think in hindsight that we should necessarily have accepted this so readily and we should have tried to find out more about the father and the family as the day went on. I also think that is particularly the case in that some of the suggestions reinforced some stereotypes."

4:26 PM  

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