Kelvin MacKenzie: Channel 4 hijab criticism was reasonable


The Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has defended as "reasonable" his criticism of Channel 4 News for fronting a report on the Nice massacre with a journalist wearing a hijab.

Mr MacKenzie, a former editor of the newspaper, argued the hijab was a "religious statement" and questioned whether a Christian would be able to wear a cross prominently on television in his latest column in Friday's paper.

His column on Monday sparked more than 1,700 complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), and drew scorn from MPs in the House of Commons.

In it, Mr MacKenzie questioned whether it was right that Fatima Manji, a journalist who wears the traditional Muslim head covering, should have been allowed to appear on screen during last Friday's report on the lorry attack in the southern French city.

Claiming "I could hardly believe my eyes", Mr MacKenzie asked: "Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?"

Channel 4 described his comments as "offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred".

But in his latest column, Mr MacKenzie said his question was a "simple" one.

He wrote: "A reasonable inquiry you would have thought with the sensitivities that currently exist in this nation and the rest of Europe. Then the Twerperati got involved and it became a national debate with a record number of complaints to the press regulator Ipso."

Mr MacKenzie goes on to ask Ofcom, the television regulator: "Should presenters be allowed to wear artefacts which advertise their religion? If, for instance, one of the regular presenters was a Christian (I'm joking since at C4 you wouldn't get an interview) would they be allowed to wear a huge cross outside of their shirt or blouse to the same prominence as a hijab?"

He added wearing a hijab was "a matter of choice" for Western women.

Ben de Pear, editor of Channel 4 News, said Ms Manji had been the victim of "religious discrimination".

He said: "Yesterday Channel 4 News correspondent Fatima Manji made an official complaint to Ipso following Kelvin MacKenzie's column published in The Sun on Monday.

"ITN believes the article was in breach of a number of provisions of the Editor's Code, in particular discrimination, harassment by intimidation and inaccuracy.

"A further complaint was also made by ITN CEO John Hardie which fully supports and endorses the grounds and reasoning of Fatima's complaint.

"ITN accepts and understands that our reporters and presenters are in the public eye and can expect criticism and comment from many quarters, including newspaper columnists. What it cannot accept is an employee being singled out on the basis of her religion.

"We are not going to simply stand by when an employee is subject to an act of religious discrimination."