With this tarty tease of a headline and lead para, you’d have expected news of a radical Islamic army flinging sachets of Whiskas at Supre girls on Queen St. But the only supporter of the ‘uncovered meat’ comment in this story was one guy on a yahoo group - that’s right, not even a blogger!
Radical mufti finds backers in New Zealand was the Herald headline. Backers does suggest… plural. The lead:
A Sydney mufti who compared unveiled women to "uncovered meat" has gained followers in New Zealand, despite an attempt by the country's official Muslim body to disown him.
Again, ‘followers’ – plural?
Simon Collins is generally pretty great, but this story bears a whiff of desperation. Aside from the forum comment from one disturbing misogynist (it's so difficult to find disturbing misogynists online...), he couldn’t get anyone to actually ‘back’ the ‘meat’ comments. I can see how the line of questioning could have gone with the ex-President of FIANZ – ‘so, uncovered meat?’ He thought it was "inappropriate". ‘Do you disagree with his message that Islamic women should dress to cover themselves?’ He thought that view was "quite legitimate", considering what the Koran says. How that all ended up with the ‘Zionist Christians’ comment is admittedly pretty impressive.
If it had been left here, illustrating the conservative and perhaps kooky conspiratorial leanings of one community patriarch who is no longer in charge, that’s one thing. But the story’s lengthy attempts at implying FIANZ is trying to dishonestly deny some association with or ‘following’ of Al-Hilali, is pretty shady. Since when did conference-hopping indicate that, as a foreign attendee, you held sway over the national policies of the host association of which you are not actually a member? Who hasn’t been to a conference where a random attendee waffles irrelevant crap, and is sent politely on their way with smiles, nods, and eye-rolling? Who has been to a conference where everyone actually agrees about anything? Good god, I believe I once spoke at the same conference as Pansy Wong.
If the story had been left there, that’s another, worse thing. But that came to only one fairly equivocal ‘backer’, and not really any evidence of a ‘following’ for Al-Hilali here. Hmm, no offensive local male Muslim bloggers could be found – in fact, blogger and columnist Irfan Yusuf from Australia actually confirmed in some depth how Al-Hilali has no connection to New Zealand Muslim associations.
… So to the newsgroups!
And hence, some dickwad commenting on a yahoo group becomes some kind of representative indicator of Muslim opinion in New Zealand, whose freaky comments somehow deserve a response from Anjum Rahman.
This kind of thing is just insane. Of course, one could argue that at least one person holds these opinions, and this is just reportage of general public sphere discourse. Then why not look at the blog comments on Irfan Yusuf’s site, and run stories like “Drowning all Muslims like rats finds white backers in Australia”?
Or why not point to Garth George’s mega kooky effort in his Herald column on Friday and give him legs with headlines like “Kiwi Christians: ‘God’s rainbow disproves Climate Change’”? I’m serious guys, Garth George believes that evidence of rising sea levels from the polar ice caps melting is laughable nonsense – ho ho ho! – because in the post-flood covenant, God gave Noah the rainbow sign. He clearly doesn’t know the second half of Baldwin’s couplet - ‘No more water, the fire next time.’ It must be embarrassing enough for sane Christians to have him coming up with such public weirdness every week – but imagine if he was actually thought to represent some politically significant segment of Christian opinion on science, embodying the struggle for Christianity’s soul in contemporary New Zealand society. Or imagine if we expected, in outraged tones, for 'moderate' Christians to regularly denounce George's oddities lest they be automatically held in suspicion of backing his rather literal reading of Biblical climatology.
I know this is obvious and not terribly witty, but it is really objectionable to randomly pick out crazy talk by idiots and present them as valid representations of collective group opinions – and to consistently do this on Muslim issues is unfair.
It is unfair because it seems that out of all the random talkboard posters in the country, only the Muslim ones - and angry Chinese international students - have the power to be portrayed as being ‘representive’ of significant community opinions. Random posters on sites such as Public Address System have yet to be granted such mainstream acknowledgement. This is unfair, is it not? So, in the style of a lot of these new ‘system’ questions, here’s a starter for ten:
For which unpopular political idea would you want your web forum post to be used as proof of that idea's insidious threat to New Zealand democracy?
Public replies now possible - click the 'Discuss' button to become a national representative of your race or religion, and make sure you include your relevant demographic information.