The first Muslim elected to the NSW Parliament is threatening defamation action against The Australian newspaper and reporter Sharri Markson if they do not apologise for an article branding his comments racist.
Lawyers for Labor MLC Shaoquett Moselmane have written to Markson and the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Paul Whittaker, demanding an apology over a comment piece published on Tuesday.
In it, Markson attacked a 2013 speech by Mr Moselmane speech in the NSW Parliament which criticised reporting by reporters at The Australian on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Sharri Markson of The Australian has accused Mr Moselmane of “anti-Semitic sentiment”.
The speech also slammed “the power of a political lobby group that is cancerous and malicious and seeks to deny, misinform and scaremonger.”
Markson’s article, which carried the print headline “Racist views pushing ALP’s stand on Israel”, accused Mr Moselmane of “anti-Semitic sentiment” aimed at “Jewish advocacy groups”.
The headline on a longer piece published online was “ALP’s anti-Semitic views behind push for trip ban”.
The articles followed news of a push by the Labor Friends of Palestine at next week’s ALP state conference to ban MPs and ALP officials from accepting trips to Israel subsidised by pro-Israel lobby groups. Mr Moselmane supports the proposed ban.
The legal letters claim the articles are “seriously defamatory” and impute Mr Moselmane is a racist, is anti-Semitic and has described Jewish groups as “malicious” and “cancerous”.
They note the article was promoted on Twitter, including from Markson’s account.
Sharri Markson of The Australian has accused Mr Moselmane of “anti-Semitic sentiment”. Photo: Supplied
The letters state that while Mr Moselmane opposes some Israeli policies and actions of some groups which lobby on its behalf, “his views in this regard are entirely free of any prejudice against or ill-feeling towards Jews or any other ethnic or religious group”.
In the letter to Whittaker, Mr Moselmane’s lawyers suggest it is “extremely difficult to believe that an experienced journalist such as Ms Markson could have conflated what Mr Moselmane said with racism or anti-Semitism, other than as the result of deliberate malice”.
They are demanding a written apology from Markson and an apology in the print edition of The Australian and on its website.
The Australian’s managing editor, Helen Trinca, said: “Mr Moselmane’s complaint has been received and is being handled in accordance with our standard procedures. Any response will be made through the appropriate channels.
Lawyers for Mr Moselmane,Rick Mitry of Mitry Lawyers, told Al Ankabout that the concerns notice served on the journalist and the Editor of the Australian gave them an opportunity to tender an apology before proceedings are instituted.