We have encountered an unusual situation with the Australian media’s virtual
hushing up of a positive Muslim related issue over the weekend. My
company – Jigsaw Entertainment – makes a sketch comedy show for Network Ten called
the Ronnie Johns Half Hour. As a result of the furore over the Danish cartoons
throughout the world, the Ten Network decided to pull the first episode of the
new series off air last Sunday night. This was a quite understandable reaction
to some of the content, which included our launch of “High Five a Muslim Day” in
the episode.


Our view however, was that the sketches were not offensive
to Muslims. On that basis we took the unprecedented step of approaching various
representatives of the Islamic community for their views. This involved
providing details of the show – edited sketches and scripts. The result
was that the Mufti of Australia Taj Aldin Alhilali issued a Fatwa or religious
ruling about the show (here) – namely that the idea behind the sketch is
constructive and helps promote understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim
Australians.

Most of the media chose to ignore the Fatwa despite the fact that
it is the first time such a step has been taken on Australian TV. Now
we have heard from a number of news outlets who have acknowledged what
we all know – a bad news story is preferable to a positive one. Indeed
there is much embarrassment at some media outlets that they did not run
the story. They agree that, had someone been threatened, they would have
given it an upfront run and in hindsight should have run the positive
story.


It
seems to me that we have a press that is willing to jump on negative stories
about Muslims but there is almost nothing that can be done to get a positive
spin on Islamic attitude to Australian culture.


Our experience with
Ronnie Johns is that while the Catholic church and radical Christians constantly
complain about the portrayal of Christianity in comedy shows, here senior
figures in the Islamic faith have exhibited a sense of humour and a sense of
place – our High Five a Muslim Day sketch is topical and coming off the back of
the Danish cartoon issue was, I would have thought, newsworthy. It seems
not.


The good news is that Ten responded to the Fatwa and reinstated the
episode at 10:30pm on Sunday night.

Peter Fray

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