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Mitch Fifield asks ABC to please explain Q&A over Khaled Elomar

By Rebecca Urban, The Australian July 23, 2016

Khaled Elomar and his wife Oula

Khaled Elomar and his wife Oula in Sydney last night. Pictutre: John Feder

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield wants an explanation from the ABC on how a Muslim man who had denigrated two female politicians online was given a platform on its Q&A prog­ram. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has called for a public inquiry into the program after it emerged that Khaled Elomar, who appeared on Monday night, had also made disparaging comments on social media describing Jews as “pigs”.

Mr Elomar drew much sympathy from the Q&A audience when he spoke about being called a “Muslim pig” every day on the streets of Cronulla, in Sydney’s south, where he worked. Mr Elomar, who confronted One Nation leader and senator-elect Pauline Hanson about inciting Islamophobia in the com­mun­­ity, told The Weekend Australian yester­day that he had ­removed his Facebook comment “May Allah curse the Jews pigs”, posted in November 2014, after he ­realised it could offend people.

He said it did not resonate with his perception of himself as a “peace-loving man”. “I am strongly opposed to Zionism. Not Judaism — there’s a distinct difference,” he said. “Just the same as there’s a difference between (Islamic State) and Islam. I have Jewish friends but I don’t shy away from my oppos­ition to Zionism and I do stand by that.” Mr Elomar became emotional when he said he believed that some people had interpreted his comment telling Ms Hanson to “go uppercut” herself to be an ­incitement to violence.

“It means to punch oneself in the face; not beheading,” he said. “I am a respectful, God-fearing, loving person. Please ­acknow­ledge that. I am not a person who preaches hate.”  Asked whether he regretted the tone of his comments on ­social media, which included ­describing senator Jacqui Lambie as “ugly” and “extremely stupid”, as well as many anti-capitalist, anti-Western rants, Mr Elomar said: ­“Absolutely.’ The way my posts are being comprehended is completely out of context.”

Mr Elomar, a Lebanese-born Australian, said his comments about Senator Lambie had come after she had backed calls to ban the burka, which he perceived as ­undemocratic. He had been upset by Ms ­Hanson’s comments about “pit bulls” when referring to Muslims being allowed into Australia. “I should have chosen my words differently. I shouldn’t have said what I said,” he said.

The executive ­director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim, said it ­appeared that the program’s prod­ucers had failed to do basic due diligence in allowing Mr ­Elomar’s appearance. Senator Fifield said yesterday that while the ABC should be a place for vigorous debate and a variety of perspectives, there was no place for “abusive and derog­atory” attacks in political debate.

“I have and will continue to raise matters of community ­concern with the management of the ABC,’’ he said.

The ABC did not comment.

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