Policy Exchange vs North London Mosque: case closed

THE think-tank Policy Exchange appears to have come off better in its fight with the Islamist-controlled North London Central Mosque, which sued for libel over the think-tank’s controversial pamphlet The Hijacking of British Islam. The pamphlet found extremist literature at the mosque, but some of its evidence was later questioned amid suggestions of forgery.

As I reported last year, Mr Justice Eady dismissed the mosque’s libel action. The mosque appealed. Today, Policy Exchange said the final appeal had been dismissed.

Policy Exchange emphasises that it has not apologised to the North London Central Mosque and that the mosque has been forced to pay them substantial costs, believed to be in the region of £100,000. It says:

“Policy Exchange is pleased to report that the libel action brought by the North London Central Mosque (NLCM) against it over its report The Hijacking of British Islam has now ended, following the dismissal of NLCM’s appeal against the order of Mr Justice Eady. NLCM has paid a substantial contribution towards Policy Exchange’s costs…Policy Exchange has not apologised to NLCM for the publication of its report.”

The think-tank has issued a statement as part of the settlement, saying (as it did in the contested report) that “it never sought to suggest that the extremist literature [found at the mosque] was sold or distributed with the knowledge or consent of the mosque’s trustees or staff.”

The secretary of the mosque, Mohammed Kozbar, however, says: “The case has not been dismissed at all. We had an out-of-court settlement. If it had been dismissed, they would not have put this statement on their website.” Policy Exchange says that, no, the action was definitely dismissed.

Policy Exchange stated: “NLCM sought the Court’s permission to appeal. This was twice refused.  It was granted by Lord Justice Sedley on 21 April 2010 on the third time of asking.  Lord Justice Sedley nevertheless emphasised that he did not believe there was a realistic prospect of NLCM overturning Mr Justice Eady’s ruling.

“In the meantime, in February 2010 the trustees of the mosque abandoned their individual claims in libel against Policy Exchange in respect of the same report and paid a substantial contribution to Policy Exchange’s legal costs.

“In October 2010 NLCM discontinued its appeal and paid a substantial contribution to Policy Exchange’s legal costs. Following that agreement the appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 5 October 2010.”

One of the most important tactics of Islamists is to hassle those who write about them with libel actions and complaints. Mostly, if you stand firm, they will either go away, or lose. It’s a tribute to the Policy Exchange trustees that they stood firm.

The North London Central Mosque is perhaps Britain’s most important showpiece for the belief by some in authority that we can anoint “good Islamists” and use them as a bulwark against the “bad Islamists.” The mosque, formerly home to Abu Hamza and a centre of terrorist recruitment, was closed after a police raid in 2003 and reopened under new leadership in 2005 in a deal brokered by the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, led at the time by an Islamist sympathiser, Robert Lambert.

It was essentially gifted to an Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain. The new leadership were certainly more moderate than Abu Hamza – not terribly difficult – but they have close links with another designated terrorist group, Hamas. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of setbacks for them.

(Declaration of interest: I have written two reports for Policy Exchange, though had no involvement in this one.)

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