Model denies Muslim garb was ‘a stunt’

Michelle Leslie has defended her decision to ditch Islamic dress for singlet tops amid accusations she wore Muslim clothes at her trial to seek a favourable outcome from the Indonesian courts.

The Australian model is expected to arrive home on Tuesday after serving three months in Bali’s Kerobokan prison for possessing two ecstasy tablets.

Leslie, who says she has converted to Islam, wore Islamic head covering during parts of her trial, but after her release on Saturday boarded a flight to Singapore in a singlet top which exposed her neck, shoulders and stomach.

Her clothing sparked anger from Australian Muslims, who accused her of using Islam to trick the Indonesian courts into being lenient.

“It looks as though … she used Islam as a stunt to get a judgment in her favour,” Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ameer Ali said.

Dr Ali said Leslie, 24, could not resume her job as an underwear model and remain a Muslim.

“Michelle Leslie cannot do what she was doing before as a model for lingerie and underwear. That’s not allowed in Islam,” he said.

Leslie’s minder, Sean Mulcahy, rejected claims she had insulted Muslims and the Indonesian courts.

Mr Mulcahy said Leslie was free to practise her religion in the way she chose, but she would not talk about her faith.

“I’ve spoken at length with some of the Islamic leaders (and) they’re divided over those views,” Mr Mulcahy told ABC Radio.

“We have our own views on how one acts and performs and … practises their religious beliefs, and we don’t feel that Michelle has offended anybody.”

Industry insiders said it might be illegal for Leslie to profit from her story, given her criminal conviction.

Justice Minister Chris Ellison said it would be up to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether Leslie should forfeit money made from selling her story.

The DPP would not comment, but Treasurer Peter Costello said: “I don’t think people should profit from any breaking of the law.”

New Idea magazine rejected reports it had offered Leslie $80,000 to secure exclusive rights to the story.

“It’s absolutely not true at all,” editor-in-chief Robyn Foyster said, although she added that she would like Leslie to tell her story to the magazine.

Ms Foyster said Australian law prevented people from profiting from a criminal offence and that law would most likely extend to foreign convictions.

Mr Mulcahy said Leslie had not demanded any money from media outlets and anyone who suggested otherwise was “telling lies”.

However, Leslie and her supporters have been fielding offers for her story and have not ruled out a deal once she returns to Australia.

Mr Mulcahy said legal advice would be sought on whether she could receive payment for her story.

A media expert predicted Leslie’s career would take off after her return as companies sought to cash in on her profile and status as a “cult figure”.

Associate Professor Catharine Lumby, head of media studies at the University of Sydney, said thousands of Australians could have landed in a similar predicament and would have sympathy for Leslie, who has been the face of brands such as Target and Holeproof.

“I don’t know if she had the ecstasy on her, but even if she was in possession of two ecstasy tablets, so are thousands and thousands of young people every night at nightclubs,” Prof Lumby said.

“People in her age group will not look down on her because of that and, of course, she’s got a huge public profile now.

“I think she will be in the box seat. She’s got a high recognition factor and people are quite fascinated by her.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AAP, via the Sydney Morning Herald
Nov. 21, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday November 21, 2005.
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