Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fat spoof

Religious fervour has been rumbling at The Express towers since the news broke that the Daily Star planned a spoof Islamic editorial piece, called the Daily Fatwa.

The inflammatory page six mock-up didn't see the light of day, and was pulled by deputy editor Ben Knowles at the last minute, in favour of an article about the Seven Wonders of the World. Needless to say, Jordan's breasts featured.

Intent on doing its bit for race relations, the Daily Fatwa featured a "Page 3 Burkha Babes Special", a reader competition to "burn a flag, win a Corsa", and most soberingly of all, a leader column headed "Allah is Great", entirely blank save for a censored stamp. "No news, no goss, no fun" was the page's strapline.

The NUJ chapel intervened late on Tuesday night once the news filtered through about the Daily Star's intentions, and issued this statement: "The chapel fears that this editorial content poses a very serious risk of violent and dangerous reprisals from religious fanatics who may take offence at these articles. This may place staff in great jeopardy."

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear, was more pointed: "This was an outrageous and hugely irresponsible idea which fortunately our chapel courageously resisted and, in so doing, protected both the paper and its staff from possible serious repercussions."

Staff at the Daily Star reportedly threatened to walk out if the Daily Fatwa article had been printed, showing the high level of emotion the issue has raised.

Had the Daily Star gone ahead with its Daily Fatwa piece, the consequences -- at least in the UK -- could have been as severe as the reaction to the Islamic cartoons, which were published by a Danish newspaper at the beginning of the year.

The editor of Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, agrees: "This would have created a huge, huge backlash and outcry. I'm quite sure there would have been huge demonstrations outside the paper by the weekend and internationally."

It makes you wonder exactly what would have happened outside Express Towers had the NUJ not intervened. The Daily Star's sister title, The Express, hasn't shied from jumping on the Islamaphobia bandwagon recently either. Yesterday's Express led with the results of a reader poll, which found that 98% of responders backed a total ban on the wearing of veils by Muslim women.

Of course, the issue wouldn't be so fervent hadn't Commons Leader Jack Straw recently told the press of his dislike of veils being worn by Muslim women. The issue isn't likely to abate any time soon. Come back Princess Di front pages, all is forgiven.

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