Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Who knew Kelvin was a scholar?
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The Independent Online

I AM ashamed to admit to not knowing if the Koran contains a similar sentiment to "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth..." So I put the question to Kelvin MacKenzie, who revealed himself in Thursday's Sun as not merely a repentant sinner against multiculturalism, but our newest and most promising Islamic scholar. There was much else in this column to delight the reader, not least the weekly gag about Heather Mills McCartney's limb deficit (this one involving cunnilingus). However, it is Kelvin's knowledge of Islam - he's not so hot on Sikhism, believing that Singh is a Hindu surname; but then no one can be an authority on everything - that catches the eye.

Addressing the anti-terrorist squad's disastrous raid in Forest Gate, and specifically the finding of £38,000 in the house, Kelvin's thoughts might as well have come with the strapline: "This column is bought to you in association with the Metropolitan Police." Parroting the force's line that no one would have that much cash lying around unless they intended to use it in pursuit of an atrocity, his suspicions were roused by the explanation given for not banking it - that Islam prohibits the earning of interest. "Sharia law is very flexible," he disputes, referring repeatedly to the counsel of an Imam friend. "... Sharia means path, it is a direction, not an order." Of course. If there's one thing we associate with Sharia law, it is its phobia of appearing stridently didactic. "For instance, Muslims are not supposed to eat pork, but if they were dying of hunger in the desert and all that was available was pig, that would be fine." An analogy of genius. You can't walk 10 yards in the Sahara these days without bumping into a herd of Gloucester Old Spots. "There may not be anything sinister about that 38k," Kelvin concludes, "but it is a puzzle, isn't it?" Magnificent stuff, and when Kelvin finally tires of jokes about Heather, who knows, perhaps he'll emulate another limb-light favourite, Abu Hamza, and become an Imam himself.

* AS IF that wasn't merriment enough for one week, on Friday Qua' al Veen (MacKenzie's name change by deed poll must be imminent) popped up on Radio 5's breakfast show to duff up David Blunkett over law and order, ridiculing the Blairite line, as obediently peddled by champion buck-passer David, that none of this has anything to do with the Government. "The idea that Blair, after a decade in charge, is asking for a philosophical debate," he insisted, "makes me feel quite ill." Pithy and convincing as this was, I must remind him that David is a brother columnist on The Sun, and that this fraternal scrapping in public offends against Islam. He of all people should know Mohamed's teaching on the point. "Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another," said the Prophet in his Final Sermon. "No one has any right, nor any preference to claim over another. You are brothers." Poor show.

* THRILLING NEWS of the newspaper world's Richard and Judy. Rumours emanating from ITV suggest that Melanie Phillips and her husband Joshua Rozenberg will appear in a one-off TV special. A while ago they seemed poised to sign up for Celebrity X-Factor after a personal request from Simon Cowell that they perform Ken Dodd's "Happiness" live on telly, until Mad Mel's costume (gold lamé thong, Madonna-esque conical bra, Persian slippers, pillar-box hat) was judged "too nutty" even for peak-time ITV. However, an approach has also been made by the producers of Media Stars in their Eyes, and it is almost certain that one Saturday night this autumn, Mel will intone the words: "Tonight, Cat, we're going to be Esther and Abi Ofarim," before the pair reemerge through the dry ice to give us their version of "Cinderella Rockerfeller". More on this as and when.

* AN UNBEARABLY poignant dispatch in the Mirror from Paul Routledge, whose besottedness with Gordon Brown has ended. Gordon's championing of a £25bn replacement for Trident has vaporised the remnants of Paul's love, and so distressed is he that he contemplates leaving the Labour party. Routers is a bit of an old rogue, playing up the working-class hero, but he does have some resonance with traditional Labour voters, and Gordon won't relish the fall-out a bit. It will be intriguing to see who Routers goes for now - Alan Johnson, perhaps - although as a soon-to-be-ex-Labour member he may well feel it's none of his business.

* HATS OFF to Adrian Chiles on being hired to present the relaunched Nationwide on BBC1. No one in their right mind would watch it, of course, unless bed-bound with the remote fallen to the floor, but that's not the point. Adrian is a hugely talented broadcaster and the only good thing in BBC TV's entire World Cup coverage, and if he wants to fill time and earn some dosh on such a thoroughly un-reinventable idea as Nationwide until something more appealing comes up, that's his own affair.

* FINALLY, I am distressed to report that Prime Time Radio, once upon a time part of the Saga group, has closed down. Anyone wishing to follow Prime Time's star broadcaster "Diddy David" Hamilton will find him on Big L, a station available on Sky digital and also home to that Stephen Sondheim du jour Mike Read, where David begins today in the afternoon slot.