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Update! The Sun is accused of “giving comfort to racists”

This blog reported earlier about The Sun giving succour to racists (see full story below). Since then we’ve been heartened by a reader comment from a friend of the Somali man who was picked on.

On Monday the Murdoch tabloid ran a front page splash about a man called Bashir Aden, who’s large family were housed in a “luxury” flat near Edgware Road station. The article provoked a deluge of anti-immigrant and pro-BNP comments on news websites.

But after we condemned the story, a person named Ayan wrote on our comment section:

I have known Mr Aden and his family for many years and they are one of the most hard working parents I know. The Sun is a filthy tabloid which caters to the most ignorant people in the United Kingdom so I’m not surprised that they posted such a vile article.

They just recently moved to this house but they completley forgot to mention that this family had been living in a cramped 2 bedroomed house for 10 years! The Sun will only ignore that in order to invoke the wrath of BNP supporters.”

Ayan’s comments underline the fact that families, like Aden’s, often struggle to find accommodation and live in squalid, overcrowded conditions. That is the norm, due in part to a shortage of social housing going back 20 years.

While the current government has expanded the building of social housing, mostly through Housing Associations, it consists mostly one and two bedroomed flats. Homes with four bedrooms or more are almost unheard of.

And it was the previous government that caused the housing crisis in the first place, with very little housing stock being built before 1997, while existing council tenants were encouraged to buy.

We agree with Ayan’s sentiments completely. The real shock-horror story is the conditions that many thousands of large families live with, not the luxury of one isolated property.

ORIGINAL STORY / 30th November 2009

By Lester Holloway

The Sun newspaper was today accused of “giving comfort to racists” with their front page story singling out a family who were housed in a “luxury” flat

The Sun’s message board was inundated with hate-filled comments praising the far right British National Party and calling for the Somali-born former asylum seeker and his family to be sent “back home.”

But Murad Qureshi, who sits on the London assembly, called the article “inflammatory”, and criticised the newspaper for a number of “factual inaccuracies.”

The Sun front-page

Another Labour politician accused The Sun of “the worst sort of pandering to people’s fears.”

In the article today, the Murdoch tabloid claimed that Bashir Eden and his family “can lord it in central London for free while taxpayers are forking out £1,600 a week.”

It’s not until the end of the article that reference is made to the fact that it is not the family’s fault.

Lack of social housing, especially for properties with more four bedrooms, means that legal obligations to house families mean that councils have to look at using private rented accommodation.

The Sun went on to claim that the six-bedroom flat was “near the West End”. But OBV Blog can reveal that the property is not in the West End, but is in fact north of the A40 Marylebone Road and has a NW1 postcode. The balconies mentioned in the article face directly onto the busy flyover.

The paper used the tagline “benefits scandal” on today’s front-page, despite the absence of any suggestion that benefits were being falsely claimed in any way.

The Sun's inside page

The splash was illustrated with a picture of Eden smiling as he sat next to flatscreen TV.

However the paper seemed unsure about whether the surname of the Somali man they had picked on was Aden (as spelt on the front page) or Eden (as spelt on the inside page).

But what has alarmed politicians were the sentiments in the article which contrasted the fact that Eden and his wife are jobless with the “luxury” of their home, which the paper says is “like something out of Channel 4’s Grand Designs.”

Paul Dimoldenberg, a Westminster councillor and leader of the Labour opposition, told OBV Blog: “This is the worst sort of pandering to people’s fears and trying to ferment unrest and unhappiness for no good reason.

“They [The Sun] are giving comfort to racist views and encouraging support for the extreme right.”

Dimoldenberg’s remarks appeared to be justified by the amount of comments on The Sun’s story message board supporting the BNP.

Bashir Eden

One reader, lilyrose, wrote: “It’s a disgrace, what about the English couple who are being held by Somali pirates? Ask them for a trade in.”

Darkflame, said: “The solution is simple, if a family needs more than five bedrooms, split them up or send them home.”

The Somali family came to Britain in 1991 and are now legally resident, but that didn’t stop another Sun reader, dinner56, adding: “[They] should be in a tent, temporary, before being sent back.”

There were dozens of comments praising the BNP. The debate was no better on the Daily Mail message board where the BNP was also heavily praised.

Sarah from Scotland said: “This is why I’ll be voting BNP, we don’t need spongers like this in our country, Faster there out the better.” Andrew Niblock of Carrickfergus called for Eden to be sterilized.

A spokeswoman for Conservative-controlled Westminster Council, who housed the family, refused to comment on whether the Sun’s reporting was sensationalist, saying: “It’s not for us to comment on.”

But Labour assembly member Qureshi, a former Westminster councillor who represented the ward where the Eden family are housed, said that the flats had been built at the height of the property boom and he believed the units had been lying empty for the last few years.

He was “extremely surprised” at the rent of £1,600 per week, the figure quoted by The Sun, which was significantly more than other comparable flats in the area would be let for.

Qureshi added: “The property is neither in or near the West End. No property in the neighbourhood worth £1.8 million, nor can it be called desirable given it directly backs onto the Marylebone flyover.”

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One Response

  1. Thank you for posting this eye opening article. I have known Mr Aden and his family for many years and they are one of the most hard working parents I know. They are VERY involved in their childrens educations and I think it’s safe to say that their each of their children are amongst the top of their classes. The Sun is a filthy tabloid which caters to the most ignorant people in the United Kingdom so I’m not surprised that they posted such a vile article. They just recently moved to this house but they completley forgot to mention that this family had been living in a cramped 2 bedroomed house for 10 years! The Sun will only ignore that in order to invoke the wrath of BNP supporters.

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