Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Labour's golden policy key? Build, build and build more (Guardian)

We've seen intellectual Ed, writes Polly Toynbee. But if Miliband wants to win in 2015, he needs one idea that has our inner optimist jumping for joy.

2. A wary, weary west is leaving Syria in the butchers’ hands (Daily Telegraph)

It doesn’t matter where we put the red lines: the terrible truth is that we are more powerless than we dare to admit, writes Benedict Brogan.

3. Growth will not decide the next election (Financial Times)

A strong economy at the next UK election could harm the Conservatives, says Janan Ganesh.

4. Ed Miliband doesn’t sound like the next PM (Times)

Two years ago just 23% thought he would be the best qualified, writes Peter Kellner. Now it’s risen to a mighty 24%.

5. What links the MMR scare and austerity? (Guardian)

Both sagas have their roots in dodgy academic papers, the agenda-pushing press and politicians – and willing believers, writes Aditya Chakrabortty.

6. Some missionary zeal at last, thanks to IDS (Times)

This week’s benefit reform shows what ministers can do if they are willing to face down Whitehall’s mandarins, says Rachel Sylvester.

7. However Ukip fares in this week's elections, the politics of protest can only take you so far (Independent)

The party remains far clearer about what it stands against than what it stands for, writes Donald Macintyre.

8. Confront UKIP with proper Tory policies (Daily Mail)

Re-introducing grammar schools, reclaiming control of Britain’s borders and ending abuse of human rights should be core Tory positions, says a Daily Mail editorial. 

9. Syria undermines Obama's strategy (Financial Times)

The president’s aim is to pivot to Asia rather than the Middle East, writes Gideon Rachman.

10. France shows us how to deal with jihadis (Daily Telegraph)

Why are our Gallic neighbours so much better at deporting terrorist suspects, asks Philip Johnston.

Felipe Araujo
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Manchester's Muslim community under siege: "We are part of the fabric of this nation"

As the investigation into last week's bombing continues, familiar media narratives about Islam conflict with the city's support for its Muslim population.

“You guys only come when something like this happens,” said one of the worshippers at Manchester's Victoria Park Mosque, visibly annoyed at the unusual commotion. Four days after the attack that killed 22 people, this congregation, along with many others around the city, is under a microscope.

During Friday prayers, some of the world’s media came looking for answers. On the eve of Ramadan, the dark shadow of terrorism looms large over most mosques in Manchester and beyond.

“People who do this kind of thing are no Muslims,” one man tells me.

It’s a routine that has become all too familiar to mosque goers in the immediate aftermath of a major terror attack. In spite of reassurances from authorities and the government, Muslims in this city of 600,000 feel under siege. 

“The media likes to portray us as an add-on, an addition to society,” Imam Irfan Christi tells me. “I would like to remind people that in World War I and World War II Muslims fought for this nation. We are part of the fabric of this great nation that we are.”

On Wednesday, soon after it was revealed the perpetrator of last Monday’s attack, Salman Ramadan Abedi, worshipped at the Manchester Islamic Centre in the affluent area of Didsbury, the centre was under police guard, with very few people allowed in. Outside, with the media was impatiently waiting, a young man was giving interviews to whoever was interested.

“Tell me, what is the difference between a British plane dropping bombs on a school in Syria and a young man going into a concert and blowing himself up,” he asked rhetorically. “Do you support terrorists, then?” one female reporter retorted. 

When mosque officials finally came out, they read from a written statement. No questions were allowed. 

“Some media reports have reported that the bomber worked at the Manchester Islamic Centre. This is not true,” said the director of the centre’s trustees, Mohammad el-Khayat. “We express concern that a very small section of the media are manufacturing stories.”

Annoyed by the lack of information and under pressure from pushy editors, eager for a sexy headline, the desperation on the reporters’ faces was visible. They wanted something, from anyone, who had  even if a flimsy connection to the local Muslim community or the mosque. 

Two of them turned to me. With curly hair and black skin, in their heads I was the perfect fit for what a Muslim was supposed to look like.

"Excuse me, mate, are you from the mosque, can I ask you a couple of questions,” they asked. “What about?,” I said. "Well, you are a Muslim, right?" I laughed. The reporter walked away.

At the Victoria Park Mosque on Friday, Imam Christi dedicated a large portion of his sermon condemning last Monday’s tragedy. But he was also forced to once again defend his religion and its followers, saying Islam is about peace and that nowhere in the Koran it says Muslims should pursue jihad.

“The Koran has come to cure people. It has come to guide people. It has come to give harmony in society,” he said. “And yet that same Koran is being described as blood thirsty? Yet that same Koran is being abused to justify terror and violence. Who de we take our Islam from?”

In spite of opening its doors to the world’s media, mosques in Britain’s major cities know they can do very little to change a narrative they believe discriminates against Muslims. They seem to feel that the very presence of reporters in these places every time a terror attack happens reveals an agenda.

Despite this, on the streets of Manchester it has proved difficult to find anyone who had a bad thing to say about Islam and the city’s Muslim community. Messages of unity were visible all over town. One taxi driver, a white working-class British man, warned me to not believe anything I read in the media.

“Half of my friends are British Muslims,” he said even before asked. “ These people that say Islam is about terrorism have no idea what they are talking about.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.

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