Thursday, 21 October 2010

Warning: this story stinks

The headline in today's Mail is pretty clear:

Cafe owner ordered to remove extractor fan 'because smell of frying bacon offends Muslims'
And the comments from enlightened Mail readers are fairly direct too. Lots of demands that Muslims "leave the country" if they don't like the way "we" do things here. Except, as seasoned Mail-debunkers doubtless predicted the moment they read the headline, not a single Muslim has said they are offended by the smell of frying bacon.

Let's start at the beginning:

"A hard-working cafe owner has been ordered to tear down an extractor fan - because the smell of her frying bacon 'offends' Muslims. Planning bosses acted against Beverley Akciecek, 49, after being told her next-door neighbour's Muslim friends had felt 'physically sick' due to the 'foul odour'. Councillors at Stockport Council in Greater Manchester say the smell from the fan is 'unacceptable on the grounds of residential
We only have to get to the second sentence before the first hint appears that something is amiss. It wasn't a Muslim who complained but a non-Muslim next-door neighbour. And he didn't say that his Muslim friends found the smell offensive, but that the smell made them feel sick. Just to be clear on that point, let's read on:

"They claim they received no complaints about the cafe which is open from 7.30am-2.30pm six days a week, until around 18 months ago when they received a letter from environmental services to say their neighbour Graham Webb-Lee had complained about the smell."
So someone living next door to a cafe complained to the council about the smell. Blimey. Hold the front page. Whatever next?

"They say that the council's environmental services had been out to inspect their property after their neighbour complained about a foul odour last year, but they ruled that the smell was not causing a problem. Mrs Akciecek said: 'Environmental services said everything is ok. They kept coming back and guaging it and said there was no problem and because they didn't take any action (the neighbours) complained again.'"
Now we're getting onto the serious stuff. The council responded to a complaint from a taxpayer?Someone call Eric Pickles, we won't stand for this nonsense! Let's get back to that headline. Who has ordered them to take down the offensive extractor fan?

"The couple had never applied for planning permission as they had simply replaced an existing extractor fan with one of the same size and in the same position, but, following further complaints from their neighbour, they were informed by the council they would have to apply retrospectively as an objection had been raised. They applied for planning permission in May this year, but the application was refused at a meeting of Stockport Area Committee on October 14."
Ah-ha. So they made changes to their premises without obtaining planning permission and when they did so retrospectively their request was declined BECAUSE THE SMELL OF BACON OFFENDS MUSLIMS? Er, no, not quite:

"Mr Webb-Lee said: 'The vent is 12 inches from my front door. Every morning the smell of bacon comes through and makes me physically sick. I have a lot of Muslim friends. They refuse to visit me anymore because they can't stand the smell of bacon.'"
Riiiiight. Mr Webb-Lee (who, let's remember, is not a Muslim) says the smell makes HIM physically sick. Which rather contradicts the second paragraph of the story, where the Mail claims he said the smell makes his Muslim friends physically sick. And his Muslim friends say they won't visit him because they can't stand the smell of bacon. Not that they're offended by it. It's possible they hate the smell because they're offended by the idea of bacon being cooked, we just don't know. But that hasn't stopped the Mail making up "facts" to fit a headline.

What do the council have to say about all this?

"The retrospective application was rejected on the grounds of residential amenity, as the committee felt the odours given off from the vent were unacceptable for neighbouring residents. We will ensure that the cafe complies with this decision and removes the extractor fan."
Nothing at all about offending Muslims there, either. The cafe owners installed a new fan, the fan made the smells worse for their neighbours, the neighbours complained to the council and the council took action. So that headline should really have read:

Cafe owner who flaunted planning laws ordered to remove fan because she's stinking out the neighbourhood
But that doesn't really fit the Mail's agenda, does it? And for those of you who think such things don't matter, have a look at the comments under the story. Page after page of vile anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ranting, all of it based on the lies of a "Daily Mail Reporter".

Between me spotting this story and writing this post, the Mail have updated the headline to the slightly-less-batshit-but-still-inaccurate "Cafe owner ordered to remove extractor fan because neighbour claimed 'smell of frying bacon offends Muslims'". Worth noting that the URL sticks with "Cafe-owner-ordered-remove-extractor-fan-case-smell-frying-bacon-offends-passing-Muslims." Who knows where "in case the smell offends passing Muslims" comes from, as even the Mail's twisted little story doesn't make that claim.

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