Friday, October 27, 2006

Inciting disharmony

For almost 25 years Australia's senior Muslim cleric Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali has caused controversy with inflammatory and offensive statements. Far from trying to foster community relations he's done just the opposite, inflamed feelings and created tensions.

But equally guilty of promoting inter-community conflict is the Sydney Daily Telegraph in its coverage of the story. More of that later.

Hilali's latest repugnant statement has caused a national uproar. He's been universally condemned by all groups including Muslims throughout the country, except for his small band of hard-core supporters. It's also resulted in the usual redneck Muslim bashing of course.

The cause of the uproar was a Ramadan address, when he blamed victims for inciting rape. To make it worse he clearly referred to an infamous series of gang rapes by Lebanese/Australian youths, for which they received record long sentences.

In blaming the victims of rape for enticing the men he used offensive phrases such as: "If one puts uncovered meat out in the street, or on the footpath, or in the garden, or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover and then the cats come and eat it, is it the fault of the cat or the uncovered meat?

What an appalling man with appalling opinions. That he should be teaching such garbage in a place of worship is an abomination.

But what I found equally repulsive was the coverage in Rupert Murdoch's dreadful tabloid the Sydney Daily Telegraph. A sort-of paper Fox News, it's largely a mixture of 'celebrity' gossip and redneck vitriol. Tragically, but sad to say tellingly, it's Sydney's largest selling newspaper.

The other papers reported on the address and also gave coverage to the outrage in the Muslim community. The Australian printed a rebuttal* of his extreme views on behalf of the community, a thoughtful explanation of why it was so wrong. In other words, fair and balanced reporting.

Two things incensed me about the Telegraph's coverage. First, they said nothing about the outrage in the Muslim community, their front page story was about the gang-rape victims, with statements from them. There was nothing about the broader Muslim feeling. Today they have put the mainstream view, but the damage was already done. A bit like a lawyer being ordered to withdraw a statement - too late, the jury has already, quite deliberately, been exposed to it.

Interestingly the front page story has disappeared from their website. Fortunately I copied it so I have it on file if anyone's interested.

But even worse in my opinion was the Photoshopped photo they used to illustrate the story. Just look at it:

THE victims of Sydney's vicious gang rapes are today leading the national
condemnation of Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly for denouncing women for not wearing veils. / The Daily Telegraph

That is deliberately linking an extremist and his stone-age opinions with mainstream Islam. And that is reprehensible. Totally unnecessary blatant misrepresentation. It is designed to divide the communities, to foster misunderstanding, to create more tensions. It encourages bigotry.

It is an absolute disgrace and has no place in honest journalism.


If you're interested here are some links to various reports/comment on the story.

Here's an edited transcript of his mad ravings

Mufti outrages Muslims over sex comments

*Rantings not Muslim ideals

To pre-empt accusations from 'anonymous', yes I would say the same thing if I came across any paper doing a similar hatchet job on any religion. I would make the same comments if I saw a photograph of an extremist Catholic superimposed over the Vatican, a Protestant extremist superimposed over worshippers in Canterbury Cathdral, or any other example you can think of.


DG said...

Long live the freedom of speech.

Seabee said...

Freedom of speech yes, incitement to violence, no.

bint al saud said...

outrage of the community? there has been none - all the muslim community leaders have been on the television and other media saying they fully support the man!

the community itself organised an SMS campaign to hold a rally this coming Saturday showing their full support for him and what he said...this has now been cancelled largely, I suspect, because even that horrible man can see that it does no good to the PR of his religion and there is likely to be a riot.