Islamist hardliners lose another libel action

One of the key tactics Islamist hardliners use to suppress reporting of their activities is to hassle those who write about them with libel actions, Press Complaints Commission complaints, and so on. Thankfully, there is growing evidence that this tactic is failing.

Today, in a very significant judgment, a man named Azad Ali lost his High Court libel case against an article in the Mail on Sunday which described how he had been suspended from his job as a Treasury civil servant after writing a highly controversial post on his blog.

As I put it in my own story for my then newspaper, the Evening Standard, Ali praised a spiritual leader of al Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam, denied the Mumbai attacks were “terrorism” and quoted, apparently approvingly, a statement advocating the killing of British troops in Iraq.

He criticised those Muslims who “tell people that Islam is a religion of peace”. He described non-Muslims as “sinners” and said Muslims should “hate [non-Muslims’] disbelieving actions”.

In his ruling today, Mr Justice Eady said: “I would hold that [Ali]  was indeed, in November 2008 and for so long as the blog remained available, taking the position that the killing of American and British troops in Iraq (whether before or after the 2005 elections) would be justified…In those circumstances, the claim can be categorised legitimately as ‘bound to fail’ and as having about it an ‘absence of reality’.”

Interestingly, I and the Standard never received any complaint from Ali about my piece, nor were we ever threatened with litigation.

This is the second time in two months that Islamist hardliners have suffered a serious reverse in court. In November, the think-tank Policy Exchange won its long-running legal battle with the North London Central Mosque which alleged extremist influence there.

For the first time in a long while, something appears to be going right in the libel courts.

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