The Daily Telegraph reached new lows of divisive and gutter journalism in its Monday July 10 2006 issue.
The offending article appeared on page 7 of the DT and was headed “Extremists weave a suburban web of hate”. It was authored by Luke McIlveen.
The article claims “Muslim extremists in Sydney are using the internet to gather support for making Australia an Islamic state”. It also claims chat rooms reveal “a ground swell of support for notorious terrorists such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi”.
The article doesn’t actually define what it understands by the term “Islamic state”. Nor does it define “ground swell”.
When examined closely, the ground swell turns out to be little more than a small number of quotes or excerpts from postings made by anonymous contributors. The quotations were made out of context, with McIlveen’s over-active imagination used to prove the relevant sinister context.
McIlveen deliberately misleads his readers by claiming “several threads” were devoted to “turning Australia into an Islamic state.
Yet the only quote he provides is one person posting: “II reckon we stay and try our best to get to high positions in this country so it comes to the fold of Islam”.
“McIlveen doesn’t explain how coming “to the fold of Islam” necessarily means the establishment of a caliphate or some other form of theocratic Islamic state.
Other quotes from postings are provided, though little indication is given of the precise subject matter of the posts or of other opinions expressed on the same thread.
At the article’s end, McIlveen invites readers to report any extremist websites with the question: “Do know of any extremist websites?”.
It seems professional journalism isn’t the only thing McIlveen has trouble with.
I did speak to Mr McIlveen on the afternoon of 11 July 2006. He insisted that the quotes did suggest their authors did envisage establishing an Islamic state. He asked what other possible reading could be given to them. I suggested there could be numerous possible readings, amongst which is that the posters wanted Islam to become the majority religion without changing the political system.
I followed up the telephone conversation with an e-mail to Mr McIlveen. I requested he send me a copy of all threads he had retained in researching the story, especially given that he had envisaged moderators of the forums might edit or remove the threads and then accuse McIlveen of misrepresentation. I'll keep you all informed of any response I receive from Mr McIlveen and/or the DT.
© Irfan Yusuf 2006