The Australian sheikh who reportedly slammed popular cartoon Peppa Pig as a "corrupting influence" on children says he has never heard of the show, and thinks there's nothing wrong with it.
The Australian newspaper ran a story on Thursday titled "Peppa Pig a corrupting influence for Muslim children, say leaders", about a Muslim-focused children's entertainment company called One 4 Kids raising funds for a new cartoon they wanted to produce.
The company is crowdfunding to raise $20,000 to produce Barakah Hills, about a "small town with a predominantly Muslim population". One 4 Kids has written a few times on Facebook that the proposed cartoon would be "Our Peppa Pig alternative".
The Australian ran quotes from videos produced by Muslim community leaders in support of the crowdfunding campaign, correctly quoting Australian National Imams Council boss Sheik Shady Alsuleiman who said he would like to see more cartoons with Islamic "principles, ethics and values" (you can see his whole video here). The story was later picked up by multiple media outlets both in Australia and internationally, while The Huffington Post Australia linked to a BBC version of the story on our homepage and on our Facebook page.
However, Alsuleiman says he doesn't think Peppa Pig is a bad thing. In fact, he's never even heard of the show.
Alsuleiman wrote on Thursday night that he "was shocked to learn from media sources today that he had called the British cartoon Peppa Pig a corrupting influence".
"Today is the first time I came to know of the program," the Sheikh said.
He points out that he never mentioned Peppa Pig in his video, and said that children should not be stopped from watching other cartoons on TV. In the video, he says that "it is our responsibility not to stop them from watching [other cartoons] but to give them another alternative".
"This ridiculous media frenzy about the Peppa Pig cartoon is based firstly on a misleading headline and secondly on an insatiable appetite by some media outlets to misrepresent and embellish the reality for sensationalist propaganda purposes," the Sheikh said.
Despite the article's headline, The Australian also reported One 4 Kids director and producer Subhi Alshaik saying Peppa Pig was "a great show".
One 4 Kids describes itself on its website as "entertaining & educational films & products for children" which "promotes positive messages". Its mission statement says it wants to "promote positive behaviour in young children by providing them with high quality fun and educational experiences". The only mention of anything related to Islam is in the statement's second sentence, where the company said it creates cartoons "to fill a void that existed for quality, educational entertainment for Muslim children in a mainstream environment".
Some of its cartoon characters include a large fluffy purple bear, a cute koala, a snowboarding polar bear, and a kangaroo who is a mailman and carries letters in its pouch.
The furore calls to mind a similar breathless series of reporting on an alleged campaign by Muslims to get Peppa Pig off British TV in 2014. The push was later revealed to be a joke. At the time, the Muslim Council of Great Britain said Muslims had no issues with the program: "The majority of mainstream Muslims would not find Peppa Pig offensive, and anecdotally we know of many Muslim children who watch the show for its entertainment value. Those who do have issues with this can simply refrain from watching the show and purchasing Peppa Pig memorabilia."
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