Did this wife know she was being divorced - and husband was to wed top Tory Muslim?
Wife in Muslim Tory marriage row hit by arson
The question: why is the word Muslim in any way relevant to either?
Would you see 'Christian' or 'Jew' in similar headlines? Almost certainly not. So why are they included here?
Although the circumstances are different, other than being about Conservative politicians and their marriages, there certainly isn't any mention of religion in the headlines to stories about Boris Johnson and James Gray, both of whom had affairs that were written about extensively by the Mail.
So what is going on here? Why was 'Did this wife know she was being divorced - and husband was to wed top Tory?' not good enough?
The top Tory in question is Baroness Warsi. She's a Muslim. Her new husband Iftikhar Azam is also a Muslim. His ex-wife, Massarat Bi is (shock!) a Muslim.
The Mail doesn't want anyone to think this is about anyone other than those Muslims.
The first article, on 13 September, claimed that although the ex-wife had lived in Dewsbury for 18 years, she didn't speak much English and didn't understand the divorce papers when they arrived in the post and thought instead they were bills. Even for someone who doesn't speak much English, that seems a curious mistake to make.
But the story makes this argument over and over, despite the fact the ex-husband, Iftikhar Azam, is quoted saying:
‘My ex-wife Massarat was represented by solicitors in matrimonial proceedings. At no stage have either Massarat or her solicitors raised this issue before these comments to the Press. Massarat speaks and understands English.'
Which seems fairly definitive. But what the Mail 'forgot' to include was this rather crucial line from Azam's statement, found in the Telegraph:
This allegation is completely untrue.
Hmm. Why would the Mail on Sunday omit that? Surely not because it might ruin their whole article?
What is included is a curious - and not entirely comprehensible - story about how the reporters got to speak to Massarat. The Mail claims they went and were asked by Massarat to pretend to be doctors if anyone asked because she didn't want any recrimination. Massarat's son asked the journalists later why they posed as doctors and hid that they were journalists.
The article also contains the following statements, made by Iftikhar's brother:
Ghafar claims that before Iftikhar’s divorce was finalised, he had travelled to Pakistan with Baroness Warsi and Mr Cameron in September 2008. Mr Cameron was holding talks with political leaders to boost the party’s foreign policy credentials.
Ghafar says Iftikhar and Warsi stayed together in the opulent Pearl Continental hotel in Islamabad, the only deluxe hotel in the capital, which boasts of its ‘sensuality, temptation and serenity’. He claims they also visited cricketer and politician Imran Khan at his farmhouse.
This week we find the Mail on Sunday retracting those claims:
In last week’s article we said Baroness Warsi and Iftikhar Azam may have travelled to Pakistan together in September 2008, before Mr Azam’s divorce was finalised.
In fact, Mr Azam did not go on the trip - which was organised by the Conservative Party - and Baroness Warsi has never stayed at the Pearl Continental hotel in Islamabad or visited Imran Khan’s farmhouse as suggested. We are happy to set the record straight.
However, they have not removed the original article or amended it at all.
So the statements about her not understanding English have been categorically denied (and if their reporter spoke to her surely they don't need a third-party to judge?), and claims made by the brother have been 'clarified'? How much else are we meant to believe?
This seems to be a particularly feeble attempt at a hatchet job, based on very little. But why? Is it because she's a Muslim? Or a woman with a career? Or is that purely coincidental?
The story was picked up by the Telegraph - where Melanie McDonagh repeated the now retracted claims - but was unsurprisingly ignored but most other news outlets. It does get some outings on anti-Islam websites, however.
Today's update is about how Massarat's car had been attacked in a suspected arson attempt. Could last week's article have contributed to that in any way?
Let's hope not.