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Outcry over 'shocking' column against Muslim woman reporting on Nice attack

Press regulation body received more than 100 complaints in less than 12 hours over article claiming Islam is a 'clearly violent religion'
Kelvin MacKenzie, the former tabloid editor who wrote the controversial article (AFP)

A newspaper column arguing that a woman in a hijab should not have presented news coverage of last week’s attack in Nice has sparked outrage in the UK.

Published by The Sun on Monday morning, the article was written by Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor of the tabloid newspaper.

The article says that Fatima Manji, a reporter with Channel 4 News, should not have been allowed to present the channel’s coverage of a truck attack that killed 84 people in the French city of Nice on Thursday.

MacKenzie describes Islam as a “clearly violent religion,” saying that non-Muslims were “entitled to have concerns about what is beating in [the] religious hearts” of Muslims.

“Was it appropriate for [Manji] to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?” the column, which has been shared just over 1,500 times, asks.

“Would the C4 editor have used a Hindu to report on the carnage at the Golden Temple of Amritsar?

“Would the station have used an Orthodox Jew to cover the Israeli-Palestine conflict?”

The Sun refused to comment when approached by Middle East Eye.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which regulates press in the UK, told MEE it had received more than 100 complaints about the article within 12 hours of publication.

The complaints have all been lodged under Clause 1, relating to accuracy, Clause 3, which forbids “intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit” and Clause 12, which governs discrimination.

The Sun states on its website that it is "committed" to abiding by IPSO regulations - however, the paper has faced censure from the body on several occasions in recent months.

In March, the paper was ordered to print a statement admitting that a story claiming that one in five British Muslims supported those who had gone to fight in Syria was "significantly misleading".

A Twitter post by The Sun promoting Monday's controversial article has been deleted, but the content remained accessible online at the time of writing.

A source within The Sun told the Guardian that the post was deleted because it “did not make clear that the piece was by MacKenzie, and not by The Sun”.

No follow-up post has been published.

The UK's National Union of Journalists has condemned the article, saying that "journalism in the UK needs more diversity, not less".

“To suggest that a journalist is incapable of reporting on a terrorist outrage because of the colour of her skin, her religion or the clothes that she wears says all you need to know about the contemptible views of Kelvin MacKenzie," the union's general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said in a statement.

The article has also provoked a storm of criticism online, with commenters accusing the paper of irresponsible journalism at a time when hate crimes – particularly those targeting women wearing the Islamic headscarf – have jumped.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a member of the ruling Conservative Party who resigned her cabinet position in 2014 over the bombardment of Gaza, accused MacKenzie of “ratcheting up the hate”.

In an open letter to The Sun editor Tony Gallagher, Warsi warned that the “divisive” newspaper column could have consequences for people at risk of being targeted by hate crimes in the UK.

“This column is the latest in a series of stories and headlines in The Sun…which act as a drip drip poisoning of community relations in the United Kingdom,” Warsi wrote.

Labour MP Diane Abbott also called the article a “shocking attack”.

Tom Clarke, a science editor at Channel 4 who lost a sister in the September 11 attacks of 2001, tweeted his support for Manji:

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