Well, it was another slow-news day at the Daily Telegraph. But you can always rely on your trusted Tele reporters to manufacture news when none is available.

“Schools used for Shady purpose” was the headline of one such story. I’m not sure what kind of piersed akumen would come up with a headline poking fun at someone’s name. The photo of Sheik Shady Soliman showed him in the dangerous position of … wait for it … talking on a mobile phone! Perhaps Dr Haneef must have lent him a SIM card.

The reporter in question, Claire Masters, then plagiarises key material of her report from a similar story published by Richard Kerbaj in The Oz from May 9. That’s 6 months ago!

She writes: “In a lecture titled Rulings on Performing Jihad Sheik Shady said while the Prophet condemned the killing of children, “if they are involved (in fighting) then you have to stop them”.”

Kerbaj at least provided the entire quote from Shady, from which one can gauge part of the historical and theological context. He also mentions that the lecture in question was delivered in 2002. Masters didn’t mention any of this. Funny that.

And if radical Sheiks aren’t enough to have you shaking in your thongs, Edith Bevin has a story on why Sydney icon Harry’s Cafe de Wheels refuses to use halal meat in its gorgeous meat pies.

But nowhere in the report does the owner, Michael Hannah, limit his comments to halal. Hannah in fact refers to both Islamic halal and Jewish kosher meat. In other words, Hannah has made a business decision not to use meat that satisfies the religious requirements of either faith.

Still, that doesn’t stop many Muslims (and I presume Jews also) from eating there. A few months back, I enjoyed a meat pie and hot dog at the Liverpool branch with a local mosque president.

Muslim scriptures allow Muslims to eat meat (apart from pig meat) slaughtered and prepared by “People of the Book” (ie. Jews and Christians). Many Western imams interpret this to mean that any and all meat sold at the supermarkets and butcher shops of Western countries is halal by default. In other words, specific slaughtering procedure isn’t required. Naturally, this position isn’t very popular with halal butchers and halal certification agencies.

Michael Hannah told Crikey this morning that on Monday afternoon he’d received a phone call from someone at the Tele who asked him a number of questions before slipping in words to the effect of: “We were wondering whether you use halal meat”. He was surprised at the question as neither he nor any of his staff had never initiated any such discussion nor issued any press release. He specifically told the reporter that he catered for neither halal nor kosher and that he didn’t want to discriminate against anyone. He also told her that he had never received any requests for halal meat from his many Muslim customers.

Hannah told Crikey that he was disgusted to read the story in the paper the next day. He described it as a “set-up”. He told Crikey he had no intention of being part of a “Muslim-bashing exercise”.

So there you have it. When news doesn’t exist, the Tele literally makes it up. Tele reporters are quite happy to plagiarise, misquote, lie and verbal others to manufacture sectarian and racial wedges where none exist. Gutter journalism at its lowest.

My advice to Sydney readers is this: Go out and enjoy a delicious meat pie from Harry’s. And when the remnants of the pie emerge from the other end, wipe using a copy of the Tele.

Peter Fray

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