The right-wing press spent several days last week whipping up indignation over the sacking of school dinner lady Alison Waldock, allegedly because she accidentally served pork to a 7-year-old Muslim pupil.
Having initially been broken by the Sun, the story was then taken up by the Express and the Mail. Never one to miss an opportunity for a spot of self-promotion and engage in a bit of immigrant-bashing, Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party spelled out the message that the press coverage was intended to convey: “The reason that Alison’s been sacked is that we’re so terrified in this country of causing offence to anybody, particularly the Muslim religion.”
The story went global, being predictably seized on by Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs (“Islamic supremacism on the march – and these craven quisling cowards do the bidding of their destroyers”), while the Islamophobes’ favourite Muslim, Tarek Fatah, tweeted that “This is why the backlash against Muslims in UK is growing”.
A report in the local paper the Cambridge News (“‘It wasn’t a one-off’ says headteacher after dinner lady is sacked for serving pork to a Muslim pupil”) suggested that there was more to the story than an innocent employee being victimised over a single isolated mistake.
And over at the Huffington Post Mehdi Hasan spoke to the parents of the pupil – who said the Sun reporter had misrepresented their comments – and they gave a very different version of events from the one being promoted by anti-Muslim newspapers and blogs.
Zahid and Rumana Darr questioned whether the incident could have occurred as Waldock claimed, because their daughter was on a packed lunch that day. The Darrs said they had approached the school on previous occasions over claims that the dinner lady was feeding non-halal meat to the Muslim pupils.
“This time,” they stated,”as a result of the previous discussions, we were asked by the headteacher to come in and discuss the incident and speak on behalf of the other concerned Muslim parents. That’s where the meeting came from. We didn’t ask for it. An email about it was sent out to all the parents.”
The Darrs also told the Huffington Post that “vegetarian parents had complained in the past too, about meat being fed to their children”. Which rather undermined Farage’s rhetorical question: “If she’d served gammon to a vegetarian would she have been fired? I think not.”