The Australian’s columnist Frank Devine has come to the attention of Middle East news and commentary site Arabisto.com, and not for the right reasons. Writing about the prevalence of Muslim-as-terrorist stereotypes in the TV show 24 in his column last Friday, Devine used quotes to illustrate the reaction from within the Muslim community.

Arabisto.com journalist Nadia Gergis took exception: It seems that Devine “not only lifted complete quotes from Rima Abdelkader’s recent blog, but our sources were misquoted too. And wouldn’t you know it, he never even spoke to them via phone or email.”

Devine didn’t claim to have spoken to these people himself for his article, but neither did he attribute them to the original Arabisto.com article dated 19 January. More worryingly, in transferring them across, he has altered the original quotes, as noted by Gergis.

Devine writes:

However, Sawsan Zaky, a member of the Network of Arab-American Professionals, says: “I think it is simply disgusting and irresponsible of the producers to portray the Arab community as if it was crawling with terrorists, particularly considering the current political and social atmosphere and anti-Muslim/anti-terrorist sentiment in our nation.”

But the original quote runs:

Sawsan Zaky, an Arab-American law student and a member of the Network of Arab-American Professionals of NY (NAAP-NY) … said, “I’m sad to say that up until last night, 24 was pretty much the only television show I was willing to watch.” She added, “I think it’s disgusting and simply irresponsible of the producers and the network to portray the Muslim community as if it were crawling with terrorists, particularly considering the current social and political atmosphere and the anti-Muslim/anti-Arab sentiment that is unfortunately so prevalent in our nation today.”

Further along, Devine writes:

Jack Shaheen, who claims to have examined 900 motion pictures for their treatment of Muslims and Arabs, says 24 is by far the worst. It “constantly defames Arabs/Muslims and generates stereotypes and hatred in the minds of people who know little of the Arab world”.

This soundbite is not in fact a direct quote – it’s pieced together from a larger discussion in Abelkader’s article:

In my talk with Dr Shaheen, he says, “Fox TV’s 24 persistently and consistently defames Arabs/Muslims more than any other group.” He asks, “Why and who is the ultimate beneficiary of such stereotypical depictions?” According to Dr. Shaheen, “The average American knows little about Arabs/Muslims or the Arab World.” He says, we often see images of Arabs/Muslims with machine guns on the screen and this unfortunately generates stereotypes and hatred in the minds of the public.

Yesterday, Devine told Crikey that there had been “no deep research involved” for his column and that he’d just Googled the subject for comment.

Reacting to a news item, he said, “I tapped Google and Google News for ‘Muslim criticism of 24′ and chose as a reference from a copious supply the article attached because it was a commentary by a Muslim on a Muslim site and was, at the time I was writing, among the more up to date.”

Peter Fray

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