· Decision of the Complaints Committee 00274-14 Miah v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. Mr Kabir Miah complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “How our allies in Kuwait and Qatar funded Islamic state”, published online on 6 September 2014.
2. The article discussed the funding of Islamic State (IS), suggesting that the organisation was receiving funds from Syria and Qatar. It made reference to the al-Muntada mosque in West London, which it described as “hardline”. The article also stated that al-Muntada was linked to mosques accused of radicalising young people, that it was supported by Qatari funds, and that it raised money for Syria, adding that the mosque “insisted” that this money was “exclusively for humanitarian purposes”.
3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to describe the mosque as “radical” or “hardline”, and to imply that it had links to Islamic State. The complainant further considered that the article had inaccurately suggested that funds raised by the mosque for Syrian refugees had been diverted to IS.
4. The complainant also considered that the article was Islamophobic, and had discriminated against the Muslim community. He stated that it had caused disharmony and tension within the community.
5. The newspaper said that al-Muntada had a history of promoting extremism, and had hosted extremist preachers, as well as Nabil Al-Awadi, who is accused of being an IS funder. Further, al-Muntada’s own former Imam, who retained contact with the mosque, had made several visits to al Manar mosque, which had been accused of radicalising its congregants, and had been named by Whitehall as a candidate for a proposed anti-extremism order. It was against this background that the mosque had been described as “hardline”. The article had not stated that the mosque was linked to IS directly, rather that it had “close links” to British mosques with congregants who were known to be associated with the group. Nor had the article suggested that funds raised by the mosque were diverted to IS; the journalist had raised questions as to whether funds raised by the mosque in support of Syria were used exclusively for humanitarian purposes, which he was entitled to do given its links to “hardline” preachers.
6. The newspaper denied that the article was discriminatory against the Muslim community; rather it was an article which explored aspects of the financing of IS. In any event, Clause 12 related to individuals, and not to groups or categories of people.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Findings of the Committee
8. The newspaper had provided extensive grounds, both in the article and in correspondence with IPSO and the complainant, to support its description of al-Muntada as “hardline”. While the complainant had disagreed with this description, he had not disputed the newspaper’s grounds for its characterisation of the mosque in this way. In the context of the piece, in which the journalist had explained his position in detail, the newspaper was entitled to present the view that the mosque was “hardline”, and in doing so it had not breached Clause 1.
9. The article had not stated that al-Muntada was linked to IS, rather that it “had close links to British mosques accused of radicalising young people into Isil”. The complainant had not disputed this. The article had stated that al-Muntada raised funds for Syria which it insisted were for humanitarian purposes. The Committee noted that there appeared to be a degree of scepticism in the way in which the journalist had referred to the mosque’s fundraising efforts. However, given the wider web of connections set out in the article, the writer was entitled to present the material in this way. Furthermore, the article had included the mosque’s position on its fundraising efforts. There was therefore no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
10. The terms of Clause 12 are designed to protect individuals, and do not apply to groups or categories of people. The newspaper was not in breach of Clause 12 because the article did not make pejorative reference to any individual’s race or religion.
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 22/09/2014