The press regulator has received more than 800 complaints after The Sun published an article questioning why a hijab-wearing Muslim was chosen to anchor Channel 4’s coverage of the Islamist terrorist attack in Nice last week.
Former Conservative Party chairman Sayeeda Warsi is among those to complain about the article, accusing The Sun of “respectable racism”.
Writing in his regular column for The Sun, senior journalist Kelvin Mackenzie questioned whether Fatima Manji, a Muslim news anchor who wears a hijab, was the best choice to anchor coverage of the dreadful events playing out in Nice.
Mr. Mackenzie asked: “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?”
Mr. Mackenzie explained that Ms. Manji, who has been with the station for four years, apparently happened to be on the rota for that evening’s broadcast.
“On that basis why didn’t they send her to Nice instead of [her colleague, Jon] Snow? Of course, there was a very good reason for that.
“The people of Nice, and the people of France, would view a foreign reporter wearing a hijab in these tense times as massively provocative.”
Alluding to the French ban on niqabs and other full-face coverings in public places, he adds: “I’m not sure Muslim reporters in secular France are even allowed to wear headscarves on screen.”
He concludes: “With all the major terrorist outrages in the world currently being carried out by Muslims, I think the rest of us are reasonably entitled to have concerns about what is beating in their religious hearts. Who was in the studio representing our fears?
The article provoked a wave of criticism, with many accusing Mr. Mackenzie and The Sun of racism and bigotry. Some took to Twitter to urge people to make a complaint:
— Mark Dyson (@DysonMarkA) July 18, 2016
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), has announced that it has now received over 800 complaints regarding the article, and said that the majority of complaints related to accuracy, harassment and discrimination, the BBC has reported.
Meanwhile, the former co-chair of the Conservative Party, Baroness Warsi, has written to The Sun’s editor Tony Gallagher accusing him of fuelling hate crime by publishing the article.
“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 which simply perpetuates stereotypes, demonises and attempts to hold a whole community accountable for the actions of an individual,” she wrote.
She also offered to help re-educate Mr. Mackenzie, saying: “A number of academics, writers and policy makers who are renowned experts in community cohesion and tackling bigotry are willing, on a pro bono basis, to help inform your paper’s thinking and educate columnists like Kelvin Mackenzie.”
— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) July 18, 2016
In a statement, Channel 4 News has attacked Mr. Mackenzie’s “offensive, completely unacceptable” comments, which it said were “arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred”.
The statement read: “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.”
The Sun has declined to comment.