2016-16: Moher vs London Free Press

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A complaint that articles about Syrian immigrants and Muslims will attract “hate-filled”
comments was dismissed by the National NewsMedia Council.

Complainant Charles Moher objected specifically to a February 26, 2016, article “Walk a mile in
her hijab” and an online poll “Do you know anyone who wears the hijab”, saying they are
“fanning the flames” of racism.

The article described a secondary school event where students were offered the chance to
learn about, discuss and try wearing a hijab for a short time within the school.

The paper characterized the article as describing a community-driven effort to promote
understanding and tolerance. It also explained that the online poll is one of several tools the
paper uses to engage with readers.

Council agreed with the paper’s stance that asking readers a question about clothing does not
amount to racism.

The complainant’s concern centred on reaction the story and poll might attract, rather than on
the content of the story itself. Council found there was no stereotyping in the story; instead
women of different backgrounds gave varied and personal views on wearing the hijab.

While the paper admitted need to take care in considering reaction to stories in terms of reader
comments, it defended posting stories as contributing to a forum of discussion. Council
supported the position that selective posting is fraught with ‘grey areas’.

In deciding to dismiss the complaint, Council noted the story was fair, positive, and did not
promote stereotypes. No reasonable reading could interpret the story as inciting hatred.
It also found the poll is a simple yes or no, and is an accepted feature that papers use for
encouraging reader engagement.