How fake news about Muslims is being used to spread hatred – Steve Cardownie

Bigots are spreading fake stories about Muslims so don’t believe everything you read on social media, writes Steve Cardownie.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 6:00 am
A vigil outside the Central Mosque in Edinburgh following an attack on the building in 2016. Picture: Ian Rutherford

During a pub conversation last weekend, one of the company asked why Muslims don’t pay council tax, saying that he had seen it on the internet and that it must be true.

In fact his assertion was prompted by a Facebook post which claimed “that Muslims who use living areas within their homes” as a place of ­worship are exempt from paying ­council tax and carried a picture of a 2013 petition stating that this exemption “does not apply to other religions”.

So, he formed the view that all that was required was a prayer mat in any part of the house and the Islamic tenant would not have to pay a penny of council tax to their local authority, which was a disgrace.

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His disgust at this blatant tax avoidance was taken up by one or two others in the company who took his statement at face value and were likely to pass on this little gem of information. This, of course, would help fuel the febrile imaginations of those individuals who would be only too happy to use this fact, as it would fit in perfectly with their jaundiced view of the world in general and the Islamic population in particular.

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The problem is though that it is a load of absolute rubbish. The House of Commons Library stated in 2018 that this claim and others like it have “no basis in council tax law” adding: “It is not possible for owners of domestic property to avoid council tax by claiming that their property, or part of it, is used for religious purposes.”

The briefing went on to say that it would be “theoretically possible” for part of a home (not all of it) being used for religious purposes to be “separately valued for business rates, and to be removed from the council tax valuation list”.

The big lie

But it continued that in such a case the government body that applies property valuations for tax purposes “would have to be satisfied that this reflected the real use of the property”. It also points out that this “would be unlikely to make more than a minimal difference to the council tax bill on the rest of the property”.

Council tax is charged on homes and the only exemption or discount relating to religion is for members of a “religious communities” such as nuns living in a convent. There is no exemption that only applies to Muslims.

Other so-called facts do not bear scrutiny – such as Muslim families have many more children than normal when the evidence demonstrates that the average Muslim household in England and Wales has 2.3 children compared to 1.8 for households overall.

Another is that the Muslim ­population in the UK now stands at four million when the true figure, according to an analysis of the annual population survey in 2015 is nearer 3.1 million, which is equivalent to five per cent of the UK’s 65 million population.

Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, is said to have written: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” This tactic is still being used to great effect today.

Whether it be Muslims, Jews or Catholics, all have been subjected to or are still being subjected to this form of misrepresentation. Muslims are on a long list of religions that have been denigrated in this fashion in order to stir up hatred and perpetuate myths in an effort to sow discord and division.

Social media provides the perfect platform from which to exploit this situation and users should be careful when accessing some web pages as they may be subjected to false information and unwittingly allow themselves to be used as part of this insidious plan.