(News.com.au) SENATOR Nick Xenophon will take legal action against a Malaysian newspaper that wrongly said he made an anti-Islamic speech in Parliament.
The South Australian senator says he's "gobsmacked" about a story in the New Straits Times today questioning his impartiality as an observer of a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend.
Senator Xenophon was caught up in the melee in which police unleashed teargas and chemical-laced water on the 25,000 protesters calling for fair rules for imminent national elections.
He was in the city on an international fact-finding mission on election processes in Malaysia.
The story on the New Straits Times website, which also ran on page six of the newspaper, quotes an extract from a 2009 speech the senator made condemning Scientology.
But it claims the speech to the Australian Senate was about Islam.
It uses a quote with the word "Islam" substituted where Senator Xenophon in fact said "Scientology".
The story also says that in the speech Senator Xenophon "came out openly in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issue" (sic).
It quotes an independent Malaysian MP questioning whether the senator's association with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim meant the latter also supported gay rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia.
In fact, while the senator supports same sex civil unions, the only mention in that speech of gay rights issues is that a former Scientology member "was instructed by the organisation to disconnect from her sister because her sister was gay and therefore, according to Scientology, dangerous, perverted and evil".
Senator Xenophon told AAP the story was a "complete lie" and he was seeking legal advice regarding it.
"It's a vile defamation and I'll be taking action," he said.
"I'm gobsmacked that someone could stoop so low."
-----------------------------------------------------------------The article in question, which NST has since taken down:
IMPARTIALITY QUESTIONED: Anti-Islam Australian lawmaker comes under fireKUALA LUMPUR: AUSTRALIAN senator Nicholas Xenophon, who was an independent observer at Bersih 3.0 rally last Saturday, has come under scrutiny.
The lawmaker’s independence and neutrality, as well as his views on the rally, have come under scrutiny, particularly in the wake of his past association with opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
In an adjournment speech he made in the Australian Parliament on Nov 17, 2009, the lawmaker was seen to be critical of Islam as well as came out openly in support of “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issue.
An extract from his speech saw him saying: “What we are seeing is a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality. On the body of evidence, this is not happening by accident; it is happening by design. Islam is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”
The independent senator also questioned whether Islam deserved any support.
In the same adjournment speech, Xenophon, touching on gay same-sex marriage, did not oppose it.
He went on to say other lawmakers would support same-sex marriage and it would eventually be passed as law to allow such unions to take place.
Commenting on the turn of events, Bayan Baru member of parliament Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim said this showed that Xenophon not only was very outspoken against Islam, but also defended the LGBT issue.
“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.
“I also challenge Pas’ ulama to question Anwar on why he sought Xenophon as a confidant, as clearly Xenophon stands against Islamic values.”