Media Watch last night exposed as myth the widely-reported and linked (including here) story of two British banks banning piggy banks lest they offend Muslim customers. “Media Watch has tracked down the origin of this story to a regional paper in the north west of England, The Lancashire Evening Telegraph,” reported host Liz Jackson.
The story was “hogwash”, Media Watch concluded, having obtained denials from the banks involved (which represents something of a breakthrough; on this issue, at least, furiously leftoid Media Watch actually trusts banks). But does Media Watch trust its own viewers? Possibly not, otherwise the program might have shown more than just the headline and first paragraph from the Evening Telegraph’s article. Here’s the entire piece, forwarded by the paper, which stands by its story:
Piggy banks are being removed from promotional displays in Blackburn town centre banks — in case they cause offence to Muslim customers.
Today the action was backed by the secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, Salim Mullla, who praised the organisations for acting with “sensitivity.”
However, other religious leaders from East Lancashire expressed concern that efforts not to cause offence had a danger of stifling freedom of expression and causing resentment and intolerance.
The Dean of Blackburn, The Very Reverend Christopher Armstrong, said: “This is petty and political correctness gone mad.
“The next thing we will be banning Christmas trees and cribs and the logical result of that sort of process is a bland uniformity where nobody is different and that is a world that I don’t want to live in.
“We should learn to celebrate our differences and not be fearful of them.”
The Qu’ran bars Muslims from eating pork and considers pigs to be unclean.
Coun Mulla said that the banning of piggy banks or pig related merchandise and products was a sensitive issue.
He said: “Within our faith there are strict rules about not consuming pork or coming into contact with pigs.
“This is a sensitive issue and it all depends on what the individual person thinks or believes.
“Some people will not be bothered about seeing piggy banks but some will — everyone reacts in different ways.
“I think the banks are simply being courteous to their customers by removing the piggy banks.
“They are showing sensitivity to people’s beliefs and I think this action is reasonable.”
A spokesman for Halifax, which has branches in Accrington, Burnley, Nelson and Blackburn, said: “We no longer have any advertising that features piggy banks or is piggy bank related.
“That has now been out-phased and we use ‘Howard’ for all our promotions and advertising.
“Customers will now see cardboard cut-outs of ‘Howard’ in our East Lancashire branches.
“‘Howard is of race so we can hardly be accused of being racist. It is very important for us that we engage with all of our customers.”
A spokesman for the Nat West bank admitted piggy banks had been removed from branches in East Lancashire but insisted there had been no directions from head office and such acts would have been at a branch’s own volition.
Jackson’s claims that “this story is not just silly … Frankly, it was always incredible” are diminished by Salim Mullla’s approval of the banks’ reported actions; he clearly doesn’t think it a silly decision at all, and allows that some Muslims are bothered by piggy banks. The program has sought to conceal this. Also concealed: the full email from Halifax group communications manager Mark Hemingway, from which only a tiny extractis offered—although bank emails directly rejecting the piggy bank story are presented in full (in PDF form, at the Media Watch site).
Incidentally, according to the Evening Telegraph, neither bank has complained about this story—which was never “silly” or “incredible”, given that a Yorkshire school removed pig-mentioning books from classrooms (via Damian Penny), a Tory council ordered that novelty pigs and pig-related items not occupy office desks, and Melbourne KFC restaurants dropped bacon dishes from their menus. Still, it’s good that Media Watch is addressing the piggy bank controversy; one week they might get around to investigating other plastic creatures.
(More on this at HMS Cheesemaker.)