The Green Scare: Muslim Immigrants as Britain’s Welfare Queens

British tabloids are often accused of offering hysterical coverage of major and inconsequential events alike.* The Daily Mail lives up to this unflattering generalization in its article regarding Essma Marjam, a single mother of six who is receiving housing benefits for a five bedroom house in the London Borough of Westminster.

This is one in a long line of articles in The Daily Mail and other newspapers reflecting their outrage over single mothers receiving living costs from the state (particularly young, working class mothers and Muslim immigrants), and the very idea that people might think of raising children as being active or even contributing to society. The names and figures change, but the basic outline remains the same: if the woman is foreign-born, she should be deported; if the father is not involved, she is at fault; if she has more than two or three children, she is a breeding machine. Throw in the terms “scrounger,” “benefit cheat,” and “human rights”—complete with scare quotes—and you might as well have read every single one of these articles.

This particular journalist, Richard Littlejohn, is a renowned bigot. Taking his words seriously enough to offer a rebuttal of any kind feels ridiculous. What can you say about a man who called the murder of five women “no great loss” because they were prostitutes? So, rather than discuss whatever Richard Littlejohn’s personal issues may be, it’s more important to view this story and its presentation as an extreme example of an ongoing trend. Even in newspapers that wouldn’t print his speculation about the paternity of her children:

She explained: ‘I’m separated from my husband. He’s a solicitor in Derby, but I don’t know if he’s working at the moment. He doesn’t pay anything towards the kids. Things are quite difficult between us at the moment.’

They couldn’t have been all that difficult 14 months ago when Miss Marjam conceived her latest baby. That’s assuming her estranged husband is the father.

There remains the underlying criticism of the woman’s sexuality (and presumed sexual voraciousness), as well as the focus on exceptional cases as representing the lives of immigrants and asylum seekers in the U.K.

Additionally, there are usually bleak references to the country’s economy, in varying levels of specificity thrown in to the stew of fear mongering. Immigrants and those who rely on government welfare to keep them out of poverty stand in as scapegoats for an economic crisis caused by financial institutions. In this case, the emerging target is the immigrant Muslim woman, the new welfare queen for Britain in the early 21st century. Just like the African American “welfare queen” emerged as scapegoats for fraud in late 20th century American politics, crude gendered and racialized stereotypes of marginalized groups gaining political and cultural currency is nothing new.

This argument that immigrants are exploiting welfare and ruining the country’s economy does not hold when these living conditions not typical for immigrants and immigrants make a positive contribution to the country’s economy. Also, since the immigrants being discussed are almost always seeking asylum from war and persecution, making their personal economic contribution irrelevant. In accordance with international refugee law, and being a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the United Kingdom offers protection to those who seek asylum from persecution.

No, “human rights” are not in fact handed out on the basis of merit, even as judged by journalists.

* For an entertainingly pointless time waster, and a quick impression of this, go here.

  • Karin

    Ah the Daily Mail, excellent for getting your pulse up in the mornings! Utterly useless for news of course. Thanks for the link to the Mail-o-matic, made my day when it came up with this: “WILL ASYLUM SEEKERS MAKE HOMEOWNERS OBESE?”

    On a more serious note, they are of course not interested in linking the story with the lack of enforcement of paternal duties in the event of marrige break down (which goes for all ethnic groups, although the newspapers have recently been preoccupied with making Black fathers take responsibility for their children, see

  • Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist

    The Daily Hate loathes Muslims, women, immigrants, and anyone else who don’t meet their standards of beauty, race, class, and religion.

  • Yusuf Smith

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    A great starting point for Mail article dissection is Five Chinese Crackers, which also filletted a Littlejohn story on “Jihad Jane” the other day (see here).

    Also, there is a whole chapter in the book Flat Earth News by Nick Davies on the Mail’s corrupt reporting, including how they run libellous stories about people who have been found innocent in the courts, knowing that libel suits are horrendously expensive and that the Press Complaints Commission is a paper tiger. The paper also has a terrible record of racism – staff commonly use racial epithets among themselves, and when an agency offers them a story, it is asked of them “are they our kind of people” (i.e. white and middle-class) or even “are they of the dusky hue?”. If they are not white, they aren’t interested.

    For example, anyone who reads my blog will have read of Lynn Gilderdale, a woman who took her own life in 2008 after living with a severe case of ME since she was 14 (i.e. since 1991). The Mail ran story after story about her from as early as 2006, including two lengthy interviews with her mother. (This didn’t stop them calling her illness “yuppie flu” when reporting her death, however.)

    But there was another story about a woman named Sophia Mirza, of mixed Asian and Irish parentage, who died of dehydration related to ME in 2005. She couldn’t swallow and was terrified of doctors, because the last time the family had got them involved, they had sectioned her (i.e. put her in a psychiatric unit) and it had led to a catastrophic relapse in her illness. So, she ended up dying of hunger and thirst because she was too frightened to call the doctor.

    The story was widely reported, including several in-depth features on the local ITV news. But the Daily Mail didn’t touch it. Admittedly, a feature like their 2006 interview with Lynn and Kay Gilderdale would have been impossible, as Sophia would not have been able to handle any visitors, but even after her death, the Daily Mail didn’t report it. The Mail have run a number of features on ME, and this would have provided an opportunity to debunk the notion that it’s a middle-class white illness.

    I can’t imagine that the Mail were unaware of the story. The obvious reason they ignored it was because Sophia just wasn’t their kind of person.

  • Dude

    The Daily Hate loathes Muslims, women, immigrants, and anyone else who don’t meet their standards of beauty, race, class, and religion.

    On the contrary – they love them because that’s how they make their money.

  • Yusuf Smith

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Also, never assume that the facts as presented in any Daily Mail story are true. They are notorious for massaging statistics, drawing false incriminatory conclusions and inserting material which is plain untrue. Also, Richard Littlejohn no longer lives in the UK – he lives in Florida, so he is probably rather out of touch with what’s really going on.

  • Yusuf Smith

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Regarding my earlier comment about Lynn Gilderdale and Sophia Mirza, on further investigation, it seems that there may not have been a racist motive for the Daily Mail’s failure to cover the latter story after all. In fact, none of the four major “quality” papers in the UK covered the story at the time, nor even the regional daily (the Argus), although the BBC and ITV news covered it. The first newspaper stories about Lynn Gilderdale appeared (in the Mail and in the Argus) on 5th July 2006, about a month after the inquest into Sophia Mirza’s death gave its ruling, so perhaps that story is what sparked interest in the subject in the first place.

  • Choigod7 .

    The Woman is British Born actually, Not an Immigrant.