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Aussie senator irked over NST’s ‘switch’

 | May 3, 2012

An Australian senator who was a Bersih 3.0 observer accused the New Straits Times of wrongly painting him as anti-Islam, saying 'someone is on a vendetta'.


PETALING JAYA: The New Straits Times (NST) has been accused of “switching” words which ultimately led to an Australian Senator mouthing anti-Islamic sentiments.

In a report on page six of the newspaper yesterday, the Umno-controlled daily reported that Independent Senator Nick Xenophon was highly critical of Islam and had referred to the religion as a “criminal organisation”.

The paper cited a Nov 17, 2009 speech made by Xenophon in Australia’s Parliament in which he allegedly said: “Islam is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”

However, a closer look at the Australian Hansard showed that Xenophon was not referring to Islam at all, but to Scientology.

It is a switch that has left the senator, who was recently part of a seven-man international fact-finding mission to observe both Malaysia’s electoral process and the Bersih 3.0 rally last week, raging mad.

Speaking to FMT from Australia, Xenophon said: “It is a vile defamation… A disgusting defamation… They do not represent my views of Islam… I have always argued for the tolerance of all faiths.

“…By replacing [the word] Scientology with Islam, it is an inaccurate and unfortunate representation of my views,” he said.

He added that the NST did not contact either him or his office over the matter.

Xenophon criticised police

In the NST report, Xenophon was not only made to appear as anti-Islam, but also supportive of same-sex marriages.

The report also quoted Bayan Baru MP (Independent) Zahrain Mohamed Hashim, who slammed Xenophon over his purported anti-Islam and seemingly pro-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) views.

Zahrain also attacked Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim (an associate of Xenophon’s), linking the latter to the LGBT movement.

“Should we let someone like Xenophon influence our culture and moral values through politics? By confiding in Xenophon, is Anwar also supporting the LGBT movement?” he asked, before challenging PAS to query Anwar over the matter.

With these in tow, the report then attacked Xenophon’s independence and neutrality in his role as Bersih 3.0 observer.

Following the April 28 Bersih 3.0 protests, Xenophon criticised the police for acting provocatively against the protesters.

He also slammed Malaysia’s mainstream media of being “biased and unfair”, querying why Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s Sabah visit got more air-time than the Bersih protests.

The online version of the report has since been taken down, although a cached copy can still be

‘Someone’s on a vendetta’

Looking further at the Hansard, Xenophon did not seem to make any references to LGBT rights or homosexuality in his speech.

In the past, Bersih’s leaders have been attacked for supposedly supporting LGBT rights.

Chief among these was the group’s co-chairman S Ambiga, who had earlier intended to officiate at the Seksualiti Merdeka – an annual sexuality rights festival – as a private citizen in 2011.

The accusations have served as ammunition for Bersih’s critics, who have attacked both Ambiga and the opposition from a homosexual standpoint.

Asked why the switching of words was made against him, Xenophon told FMT: “Obviously, someone doesn’t like what the independent mission found out about [Malaysia’s electoral process and Bersih 3.0]… Someone’s on a vendetta.”

He added that though the NST’s report was taken off the Internet, it did not let them “off the hook”, as the news report was still in print, and threatened to take the matter to both Australia’s and Malaysia’s courts.

NST could not be reached for comment.

NST: We made a grave error

In a response, the NST apologised for its article against Xenophon, calling it a “grave error.”

“We hereby confirm that we have made a grave error in publishing the statements in the article. We accept that in his speech in the Australian Parliament referred to in the article, Mr Xenophon did not use the word ‘Islam’ and neither did he assert that Islam is not a religious organisation but a criminal organisation hiding behind its religious belief,” a statement on the NST’s website said.

The newspaper then retracted all the statements in the article against Xenophon, and apologised for causing any distress or embarrassment because of the matter.

It added that it had removed the offending newspiece from its website with immediate effect.


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