Culture

Texas News Program Accused of Pushing 'Islamophobia' by Twitter Users

A segmant aired by an Odessa, Texas, news program was the subject of sharp criticism online Friday after some viewers accused the newscast of promoting "Islamophobia" and anti-Muslim biases.

KOSA-TV, a CBS affiliate owned by Gray Television, ran a story this week about an event where two white European women—Katie Hopkins of England and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff of Sweden—spoke before the Midland County Women's Republican Club.

At the event, according to the report, Hopkins and Sabaditsch-Wolff addressed how they believed Muslim immigration has affected their countries and how it could impact American citizens as well.

"Many in the audience were surprised with their personal accounts of how Muslim immigration is impacting them and changing the landscape of their country," the KOSA reporter said about the event. "Hopkins said she was the target of a Jihadist plot to behead her after speaking out about how the country's accommodation has citizens coming under fire for the things they speak in public and online and believe, in general."

The clip featured a one-on-one interview with Hopkins speaking about Muslim immigrants' growing presence in London. She said the English city is "completely overrun by migrants that didn't come from that place." Hopkins cited examples of people speaking on Muslim immigration and the repercussions they suffered for doing so, including a man she claims was arrested and accused of Islamophobia for "preaching" the Christian bible in the streets. Hopkins suggested opposers to the growing Muslim population in England face "repression of freedom for even thinking" such thoughts about the shift.

This news story didn't sit well with many Twitter users. Ali Breland of Mother Jones called attention to KOSA's news story, tweeting: "I love it when news outlets uncritically cover and amplify Islamaphobia."

Within Breland's thread, he noted that Sabaditsch-Wolff "was convicted of hate speech in Austria in 2011, which CBS7 doesn't ever think to mention." He also shared a link to the March 25 event's Eventbrite listing, which claimed that "Jews and Christians have been forced out of beloved areas" and "Halal food is being served in public schools."

Breland's tweet was shared by Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen. For their part, Polgren wrote: "Local TV news is one of the most trusted forms of media. This local news clip is shocking."

Yashar Ali, a HuffPost contributor, also shared Breland's initial tweet. He called KOSA's story a "despicable segment" and argued that "it amplifies islamophobia because the topic was covered uncritically." He also called out the reporter directly by suggesting she should "be ashamed of herself." 

A representative for KOSA issued a statement to Newsweek regarding the now-viral report.

"KOSA-TV aired a story regarding the Midland County Republican Women and Midland County Republican Party inviting Katie Hopkins and Elizabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff to give an anti-Muslim speech to local residents. Our report did not provide pertinent information on the speaker's backgrounds for context," a statement from KOSA read. "We regret the information was not included and have discussed with news management to ensure that future reporting on such issues meets our journalistic standards."

Islamophobia has resulted in several violent hate crimes against Muslims in the United States. According to data from Pew Research Center, attacks against Muslims spiked between 2015 and 2016. This rise exceeded the numbers of assaults that occurred in 2001—the year the U.S. was attacked on September 11 by al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic terrorist group. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) placed blame for the apparent rise in anti-Muslim sentiment and prejudice on President Donald Trump's administration.

"All of these incidents just show you that not only here in Minnesota, but across the country, bias crime against Muslims is at an all-time high," Minnesota CAIR Director Jaylani Hussein said in April 2018, according to Minnesota's KMSP-TV.

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