Kelvin MacKenzie’s tabloid column about Fatima Manji’s hijab has sparked 1400 complaints
Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun, questioned whether Fatima Manji – a newscaster who wears a hijab - should have been allowed to appear on Channel 4 News.
Writing in his column on Monday, he said: "Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?
“Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male-dominated and clearly violent religion?”
His comments came shortly after Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel hired a lorry and drove into the crowds gathered in Nice to celebrate Bastille Day.
He killed 84 people and injured countless others before being shot down by police.
In a statement Channel 4 News said: “The comments published in The Sun today by Mr MacKenzie are offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred.
“It is wrong to suggest that a qualified journalist should be barred from reporting on a particular story or present on a specific day because of their faith.
“Fatima Manji is an award-winning journalist. We are proud that she is part of our team and will receive, as ever, our full support in the wake of his comments.”
They added that they will, like 1400 members of the British public, be making a formal complaint to the The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over the remarks.
Labour MP Diane Abbott and former Tory Cabinet member Baroness Sayeeda Warsi also took to Twitter to condemn Mackenzie’s comments.
Sharing a letter she had written to The Sun’s editor Tony Gallagher, Warsi wrote: “Just as politicians should carry the responsibility for xenophobic and toxic campaigning that divides communities so journalists should be held accountable for ‘shock jock’ writing that simply perpetuates stereotypes, demonises and attempts to hold a whole community accountable for the action of an individual.”
Abbott added that the column had been a "shocking attack" on a respected journalist.
Meanwhile, writing in a column for the Liverpool Echo, Fatima Manji herself has now spoken out about the attack.
Accusing MacKenzie of “attempting to smear 1.6 billion Muslims in suggesting they are inherently violent”, she continued: “He has attempted to smear half of them further by suggesting they are helpless slaves. And he has attempted to smear me by suggesting I would sympathise with a terrorist.”
Manji went on to explain that she, like so many others, had been left devastated by the massacre in Nice.
And, while she does not expect an apology from MacKenzie “any time soon”, she will not allow his remarks to prevent her from doing her work.
“The truth is I always pride myself on journalistic integrity regardless of who I’m interviewing or what story I’m covering,” she said.
“That is my mission at Channel 4 News. I will not be deterred in this mission by the efforts of those who find the presence of Muslims in British cultural life offensive.”