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What the weeklies said 3 June 2018

rfi English, Jun 3

It's been a funny old week for journalism, say RFI, on reporting the news from the weeklies.

Seven days in which we've seen a man confirmed dead by the Ukranian police subsequently attend a press conference; the inhabitants of a German town hiding in fear from a pack of escaped wild animals, themselves hiding from the rain in their own enclosures; and then the cancelled meeting between the Donald and the Rocket Man got un-cancelled.

Real fake news would be a fine thing! Fake real news is a killer! We are reminded of US defence chief Donald Rumsfeld and his distinction between "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns". What do we know?

In a strange way, the week's succession of newsworthy non-events gives the French magazines an almost reassuring credibility. Since the weeklies rarely make any attempt to engage with what's really happening, there's little danger of them misleading us.

Which doesn't stop L'Obs from trying.

No answer on Muslim money

This week we are offered as cover story an "exclusive inquiry" into "The hidden money of Islam in France".

Just imagine the reaction if that headline read "The hidden money of Judaism in France," or "The hidden money of Catholicism in France".

Muslims continue to fill a very useful niche as social scapegoats. So L'Obs decides to investigate if, aside from being different, dangerous and dressed funny, they also have a stack of money squirreled away.

If you find the question interesting, I'm afraid this exclusive inquiry won't give you the answer.

Never mind the evidence, feel the panic

At least 15 imams are suspected of having defrauded the faithful of millions of euros, says L'Obs, "In Marseille, Nice, Nanterre, Clichy or Clermont-Ferrand . . . Everywhere," claims the report, "practising Muslims are worried about what their money is being used for".

In fact, no. To date, one single case of suspected fraud is being investigated in France and it concerns building contracts at a mosque here in Paris. The imam is not a suspect in that investigation.

And so the report continues.

Vague accusations, unsupported by evidence. Muslims are being robbed of millions every year by fake travel companies claiming to organise pilgrimages to Mecca, the magazine informs us, adding that no legal action has been taken, but that's because of republican respect for the separation of church and state.

Really?

And then there's the halal butchery business, worth 5.5 billion euros per year, allegedly rife with fraud and falsity as everyone tries to get a slice. Once again, no police investigations have been initiated. But the magazine can quote Jean-Paul Bigard who has no hesitation in describing the halal sector as "a whorehouse".

Jean-Paul is the top meat producer in the French market, famous for his mass-produced pork products. Halal he certainly isn’t.

Money from foreign donors. Shock! Horror!

And then there's the money from overseas.

Here, L'Obs is on solid ground, since such cash passes through official channels, usually embassies.

Thus, for example, we know that the authorities in Algeria give two million euros every year to their French coreligionists; that Saudi Arabia paid for the building of eight French mosques, for a total of 3.7 million euros. But, says L'Obs of these tiny sums, they represent only a fraction of the real amounts that are brought into France by the suitcase-full, and then vanish into thin air.

Unfortunately, the magazine is once again obliged to admit that the French border police verify the transit of large sums of cash and that, to date, no case of wrongdoing has been detected.

And that's it. An exclusive but worryingly inconclusive inquiry for the cover price of 4€50. Did somebody say "fraud"?

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