'Tell Mama' did exaggerate anti-Muslim attacks: PCC rejects all Fiyaz Mughal’s complaints against us

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Fiyaz Mughal of Tell Mama. (Photo: Rex)

Ten months ago, in the paper, I revealed how Tell Mama, a project purporting to measure anti-Muslim attacks, had exaggerated the scale and nature of attacks against Muslims both before and after the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. I later revealed that Tell Mama’s public funding had not been renewed after government officials raised similar concerns about its methods.

Tell Mama’s founder, Fiyaz Mughal, said that there had been a “wave of attacks” against Muslims, with 193 “Islamophobic incidents” reported to it in the first five days (to 27 May), rising to 212 by June 1, the eve of publication of our first article.

I do not see an end to this cycle of violence”, said Mughal, describing it as “unprecedented”. Tell Mama’s Twitter feed claimed that a Muslim woman had been “knocked unconscious” in Bolton, a claim recycled in the Guardian. “The scale of the backlash is astounding,” Mughal told the BBC. “There has been a massive spike in anti-Muslim prejudice. A sense of endemic fear has gripped Muslim communities.” According to Mughal, the unprecedented spike proved British society’s “underlying Islamophobia.” These claims, and Tell Mama’s figures, were unquestioningly repeated across the media.

What Tell Mama and Mughal did not tell us at the time, however, was that 57 per cent of its 212 “incidents” took place only online, mainly offensive postings on Twitter and Facebook. They did not say that a further 16 per cent of the 212 reports had not been verified. They forgot to mention that not all the online abuse even originated in Britain.

Contrary to the group’s claim of an unending “cycle of violence” and a “wave of attacks”, only 17 of the 212 incidents, 8 per cent, involved the physical targeting of people and there were no attacks on anyone serious enough to require medical treatment. The supposed Bolton attack never happened. There were a further 13 attacks on Islamic buildings, four of them serious.

Far from being “unprecedented,” the spike in attacks was in fact “slightly less” than after 7/7, according to the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick. Far from being unending, the post-Woolwich spike in anti-Muslim incidents fell to pre-Rigby levels within days. If there was a “sense of endemic fear” in Muslim communities, it was partly created by Fiyaz Mughal himself.

Mr Mughal, as you can imagine, wasn’t best pleased when we reported all this. In a typically bullying campaign, he got his supporters to write round-robin emails to the paper accusing us of behaviour “better suited to the days of 1930s Germany,” wound up to attack us various luminaries who should have known better, and submitted what would became a 10-month, 127-page Press Complaints Commission complaint, full of the same misrepresentation and bluster that characterised his earlier media performances. At one point, he asked to withdraw the complaint – only to reactivate it several months later. This is, apparently, allowed.

Last week he was comprehensively defeated on all points. The PCC ruled that our reporting that Mughal exaggerated the prevalence of anti-Muslim attacks, that he had not had his funding renewed, and that DCLG officials had expressed concern about his methods, was “not inaccurate.”

Perhaps it helped that we could point out that the day after our first piece, Mughal himself admitted to the BBC that the number of physical attacks was in fact “quite small;” that within two months, he had quietly dropped his own estimate of the number of “Islamophobic incidents” post-Rigby from 193 in the first five days to “more than 120” in the first week; and that the DCLG, by his own admission, had demanded an “independent review” of his data. Various police officers and DCLG officials, asked by Mughal to support his case against us, conspicuously declined to do so.

Mughal does seem to spend too much of his time picking silly fights – as we also reported, he has been threatening to sue people who criticise him on Twitter. Perhaps it’s time to get back to the day job? Although anti-Muslim hate crime in Britain appears (with the exception of the brief spike after Rigby) to be diminishing, not growing, there remain, as my articles made quite clear, real and significant anti-Muslim hatred in this country, and it’s disgraceful.

The work Tell Mama does could be very valuable. Mughal is saying some good things, and making some good allies. But if it’s not done scrupulously, it fuels the very fear and distance between communities it’s supposed to be tackling.

 

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Islamophobic crime fell in London last year – MCB spins the opposite

Yesterday’s Independent on Sunday had an alarming story claiming that “Islamophobic attacks have been on the rise.” It previewed a speech in which Farooq Murad, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, was due to say: “Islamophobic attacks, on persons and properties, are committed by a tiny minority, but the number of incidents is increasing. Robust action is necessary.”

However, the same article quoted some interesting figures from the Metropolitan Police – the first I’ve seen on specifically Islamophobic incidents – which diametrically contradict both Mr Murad’s claim and the Sindy’s own. The paper said there had been “762 Islamophobic offences in London since April 2009, including 333 in 2010/11 and 57 since this April.” It said there were only a few forces which collect this data; figures from the other forces weren’t given.

If a total of 762 offences have been committed since April 2009, 57 of them since this April and 333 of them in 2010/11, that means the number committed in 2009/10 was 372. Between 09/10 and 10/11 there was therefore a drop of 39 offences – or more than 10 per cent.

I have to suspect, from the unusual way the paper presented the figures, that either it or the MCB was trying to conceal this inconvenient truth. Though the Sindy described the MCB as “Britain’s largest mainstream Muslim organisation,” it is in fact heavily influenced by a creed which is very far from mainstream in the British Muslim community – Islamism, the doctrine that Islam is a form of government not just a religion.

Farooq Murad himself is or has been a trustee of the Islamist Markfield Institute and of Muslim Aid, a charity closely linked to the radical Islamic Forum of Europe and East London Mosque, who have long dominated the key positions of the MCB.

One of British Islamists’ key articles of faith – extremely useful for recruitment and in furtherance of their separatist agenda – is that Muslims are under growing attack by the rest of British society. Its disciples do their level best to propagate this claim despite a complete lack of evidence – in conferences and meetings and in the deplorable work of the Exeter University academic and Islamist client, Robert Lambert, whose dishonesty and shoddiness on the subject is exposed here. (Since then, things have got even worse for Bob Lambert – Exeter has been forced to remove an entire chapter of his opus and apologise to people he libelled.) Inevitably, Lambert pops up in the Sindy piece, described as a “leading academic.” Not so leading that he knows how to use a calculator, it seems.

There is, of course, plenty of anti-Muslim hatred in Britain, and it’s disgraceful. But these police figures are the only the latest in a great deal of evidence to suggest that it is, thankfully, diminishing. Britain’s main anti-Muslim political party, the BNP, has lost the vast majority of its councillors, and effectively collapsed. Racial attacks in many Muslim areas, such as Tower Hamlets, are sharply down. The Tory chairmanship, once home of Norman “Cricket Test” Tebbit, is held by a Muslim woman.

The number of Muslim MPs doubled at the last election, several of them elected for entirely non-Muslim, Middle English seats (such as Bromsgrove and Stratford-on-Avon) without any backlash whatever. Continental moves to ban minarets and the niqab have gained no political traction whatever in Britain.

Muslims are making their way successfully into the mainstream of British life. Shame on the MCB for stereotyping them as victims, and shame on the Sindy for falling for the Islamists’ grievance-mongering agenda.

Islamists establish a bridgehead in Parliament, get Commons pass: MP and peer resign

In November, I disclosed how the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Islamophobia had unwittingly appointed a group of Islamist sympathisers called Engage (or iEngage) to act as its secretariat.

Engage are an extremely dubious bunch of people who have repeatedly attacked Muslim moderates and defended extremists. After I publicised the evidence on this blog (detailed below) the chair, the Tory MP Kris Hopkins, and the vice-chair, Labour’s Lord Janner, requested the sacking of Engage as the secretariat to the all-party group.

Now, however, after what is described as an “orchestrated lobbying campaign,” Engage have apparently convinced a number of the more gullible members of the APPG that they are authentic representatives of Britain’s Muslim communities.  They appear to have been reinstated as the secretariat. Their “head of research,” Shenaz Bunglawala, has been given a Commons pass allowing her unrestricted access to the building without passing through security checks.

Mr Hopkins and Lord Janner on Friday resigned both from their positions and from the group.

In an email circulated to members, they say: “It is our belief that the Group needs to be seen as above reproach and political leaning in order to maintain trust and confidence in its work.

“Whilst iEngage are perfectly entitled to express their views, we did not believe it appropriate for them to do so whilst continuing to act for the Group.

“An orchestrated lobbying campaign on behalf of iEngage since we issued our statement has only served to reinforce our opinion.

“However, after consulting with several colleagues since Parliament’s return from recess, it appears that this campaign has also persuaded some that iEngage should remain in place.

“Whilst it is obviously a matter for members to decide on what – if any – role iEngage should play in the Group, we no longer feel able to remain a part of it.

“We have therefore decided to relinquish our positions as Chair and Vice Chair, and our memberships, with immediate effect.”

iEngage has consistently defended fundamentalist organisations such as the East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe. It routinely attacks all criticism of them as “Islamophobic.”

It attacked the BBC’s recent Panorama documentary on racist Muslim schools – showing that some children are being taught anti-Semitism and Sharia punishments – as a “witch-hunt.” Typically, it launched its attack before even seeing the programme. It was almost alone in this criticism – faced with Panorama’s clear evidence, even some of the usual Islamist suspects kept quiet.

It attacked me for writing about the East London Mosque’s hosting of the terrorist preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2009 – advertised with a poster showing New York under bombardment. It peddled the straightforward lie told by the mosque that no-one had realised Awlaki was a bad egg at that stage. In fact, Awlaki had been identified by the US government two months before as a spiritual leader of the 9/11 hijackers – and the mosque knew this.

iEngage’s chief executive, and secretary of the new parliamentary group, Mohammed Asif, wrote to the Home Secretary to protest against the ban on the extremist preacher, Zakir Naik. Mr Naik has stated that “every Muslim should be a terrorist.” But Mr Asif and iEngage said that Naik’s exclusion would “put at risk good community relations.”

iEngage publicised a grotesquely misleading report issued by another Islamist-sympathising group, iEra, purporting to show that three-quarters of non-Muslims believe Islam is negative for Britain. As I demonstrated, this result – massively more than the true figure – was only achieved by systematically twisting the data as part of iEra’s agenda to sow suspicion and discord between communities.

iEngage has attacked the Independent columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of the country’s major voices of moderate Islam, for her opposition to the niqab and the burka. She is far from the only Muslim to be attacked by iEngage. It is interesting that no Muslim MPs attended the launch of the all-party group.

There are countless other examples.

Acting as the secretariat will give iEngage a key role in preparing the APPG’s reports. These will no doubt now follow Engage’s agenda of claiming a “rising tide of Islamophobia” in Britain –  even though, as I detailed, the available evidence simply does not support this.

Haras Rafique, of the anti-extremist thinktank, Centri, said: “If Engage is promoted, it will not only undermine any attempt to tackle anti-Muslim bigotry, but will boost precisely the kind of extremist Islamist groups whose activities fuel anti-Muslim hatred.”

The feebleness of the remaining members of the APPG and their willingness to bow to an “orchestrated campaign” by Islamists has dealt a fatal blow to the credibility of the group. No report it produces can now be taken seriously and no credible MP or peer should wish to be associated with it.

Great news: Islamists lose their Parliamentary foothold

Two weeks ago I reported how Islamists had established a bridgehead in Parliament. A group called Engage (or iEngage) got itself appointed as the secretariat of a new all-party parliamentary group on Islamophobia. Islamophobia is rapidly emerging as the Islamists’ favoured new front – they have taken to conflating themselves with the entire Muslim community and damning any attacks on their tiny minority reading of Islam as an “Islamophobic” assault on the whole faith.

Engage is at the heart of this process, an organisation which specialises in defending fundamentalist bodies such as the East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe and attacking all criticism of them as “Islamophobic.”

It attacked the BBC’s recent Panorama documentary on racist Muslim schools – showing that some children are being taught anti-Semitism and Sharia punishments – as a “witch-hunt.” Typically, it launched its attack before even seeing the programme. It attacked me for writing about the East London Mosque’s hosting of the terrorist preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2009 – advertised with a poster showing New York under bombardment. It peddled the straightforward lie told by the mosque that no-one had realised Awlaki was a bad egg at that stage.

It wrote to the Home Secretary to protest against the ban on the extremist preacher, Zakir Naik, who has stated that “every Muslim should be a terrorist.” It attacked the Independent columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of the country’s major voices of moderate Islam, for her opposition to the niqab and the burka.

Today, I am delighted to say, Engage has been dropped as the secretariat to the all-party group. I understand that a number of parliamentarians on the group threatened to resign once they were made aware of its true views and links. Congratulations to the Harry’s Place blog, Conservative Home and the former MP Paul Goodman for drawing attention to the issue, and keeping up the pressure.

As we have seen with the East London Mosque, Islamists have in the past won access to power by being dishonest about their objectionable views. Today’s news is the latest evidence that now that their tactics are being exposed, and the truth about them is being told, they are being consistently pushed back.

Islamists establish a bridgehead in Parliament

After a series of reverses in the political arena, Islamist sympathisers yesterday established a key bridgehead in Parliament.

A body called iEngage (also known as Engage) states in a press release that it will be acting as the secretariat to a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia, whose inaugural meeting was held yesterday in the Commons. The group is chaired by a Tory MP, Kris Hopkins. The Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes and the Labour peer Lord Janner are vice-chairs. Sources say that the inaugural meeting was attended by the Tory MPs Angie Bray and Eric Ollerenshaw, among others. (A spokesman for the Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who was listed as attending, has contacted me to say that she did not.)

I’m quite certain all these people are sincere individuals who would have no truck with Islamism or extremism. Indeed, at least one of them is Jewish. But they are being used. They need to look much more closely at who they are getting into bed with.

iEngage is an organisation of Islamist sympathisers which has consistently defended fundamentalist organisations such as the East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe. It routinely attacks all criticism of them as “Islamophobic.”

It attacked the BBC’s recent Panorama documentary on racist Muslim schools – showing that some children are being taught anti-Semitism and Sharia punishments – as a “witch-hunt.” Typically, it launched its attack before even seeing the programme. It was almost alone in this criticism – faced with Panorama’s clear evidence, even some of the usual Islamist suspects kept quiet.

It attacked me for writing about the East London Mosque’s hosting of the terrorist preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2009 – advertised with a poster showing New York under bombardment. It peddled the straightforward lie told by the mosque that no-one had realised Awlaki was a bad egg at that stage. In fact, Awlaki had been identified by the US government two months before as a spiritual leader of the 9/11 hijackers – and the mosque knew this.

iEngage’s chief executive, and secretary of the new parliamentary group, Mohammed Asif, wrote to the Home Secretary to protest against the ban on the extremist preacher, Zakir Naik. Mr Naik has stated that “every Muslim should be a terrorist.” But Mr Asif and iEngage said that Naik’s exclusion would “put at risk good community relations.”

iEngage publicised a grotesquely misleading report issued by another Islamist-sympathising group, iEra, purporting to show that three-quarters of non-Muslims believe Islam is negative for Britain. As I demonstrated, this result – massively more than the true figure – was only achieved by systematically twisting the data as part of iEra’s agenda to sow suspicion and discord between communities.

iEngage has attacked the Independent columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of the country’s major voices of moderate Islam, for her opposition to the niqab and the burka. She is far from the only Muslim to be attacked by iEngage. It is interesting that no Muslim MPs attended the launch of the all-party group last night.

There are countless other examples.

There is no question that Muslims face substantial bigotry and discrimination in this country – although the claim, often made by Islamists, that it is “rising” flies in the face of all the empirical evidence. Hate crimes against Muslims have fallen, often dramatically (in Tower Hamlets, for instance, London’s main Muslim area, hate crimes are down by 50% in seven years.)

At this year’s elections Britain’s main anti-Muslim party, the BNP, lost 26 of the 28 council seats it held and went backwards in virtually every parliamentary seat. The number of Muslim MPs doubled, with at least three Muslims now sitting for almost entirely non-Muslim, Middle English seats such as Stratford-on-Avon. The office once held by Lord Tebbit, of “cricket test” fame – the Tory chairmanship – is now occupied by a Muslim woman. Repressive anti-terror laws which have alienated Muslims are, it seems, going to be scaled back.

There may well be a place for a parliamentary group set up to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment – which is still poisonous in parts of the tabloid press. But there is no place at all for a parliamentary group serviced by Islamist sympathisers.

Because too often, the charge of “Islamophobia” has been used by Islamists to stifle and deter examination of their own actions. They deliberately conflate Islamism (followed by a tiny minority of British Muslims) with the entire faith of Islam, and accuse anyone who scrutinises or attacks their minority brand of fundamentalism of being “anti-Muslim.” That is basically iEngage’s entire purpose.

It is a deeply dangerous game and not one, I’m sure, which any MP would want to be involved in.