· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01733-14 Sattar v The Sunday Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Saqib Sattar complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, on behalf of the iERA, that The Sunday Telegraph had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Hate preachers ‘at schools, campuses and even Scouts’”, published on 9 November 2014.
2. The article reported the findings of a study by Sharia Watch UK, and noted that “Islamic extremists” were giving public lectures at a wide variety of institutions. The Sharia Watch UK report had questioned the appropriateness of this. The article mentioned the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), and said that some of their speakers had been accused of “promoting anti-Semitism and homophobia”, as well as suggesting that “domestic violence is permissible”, and advocating the “stoning to death of women who commit adultery”.
3. The complainant denied that iERA’s speakers were “extreme”. He said that the article had failed to include the positive community work in which iERA engages, and was based on the report of an anti-Islamic organisation. The complainant said that the charity does not condone violence against women or homophobia.
4. The complainant said that the quotation from Abdurraheem Green, the Chairman of iERA, that “adultery is punishable by death and a slow and painful death by stoning” was not considered in its full context: he had made clear that in order for adultery to be proven it must be seen by four reliable witnesses. As such, it was unlikely that a person would ever actually be convicted and punished. He also said that Mr Green had clarified the events surrounding his request for a Jewish man to be “removed from his sight” at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park: the man in question was a habitual heckler, who just happened to be Jewish. The complainant also said that it was misleading to state that Hamza Tzortzis “has claimed that anybody fighting against the Muslim community ‘should be killed’ and added: ‘The punishment is beheading’”. Mr Tzortzis had actually referred to a “particular community”, and had not specified the Muslim community. Further, the punishment for treason in many societies is death, and so the reference to beheading in this context was not extreme. The complainant said that neither Mr Green nor Mr Tzortzis were contacted for comment prior to publication.
5. The newspaper strongly stood by its article. It noted that none of the quotations or incidents referenced in the article were under dispute; rather, the complainant was concerned that the views of Mr Green and Mr Tzortzis had later been clarified, but these clarifications had not been included in the article. It believed that its descriptions of iERA’s speakers had been accurate.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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.
Findings of the Committee
7. The article had made clear the basis on which it had referred to the speakers’ views as “extreme”, and the Committee did not find that the additional context provided by the complainant substantively altered the meaning of the quotations and incidents cited in the article. Further, there was no suggestion that the references had been inaccurate. The newspaper had been entitled to report Sharia Watch UK’s findings, and was not obliged to also include details of iERA’s community work.
8. The newspaper had contacted the charity, prior to publication, and included its spokesman’s comments that “our speakers have made it very clear that they do not promote anti-Semitism, homophobia or violence against women”. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and the Committee did not identify any significantly misleading statements, which would require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). There was no breach of the Code.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 09/11/2014Date decision issued: 09/03/2015 Back to ruling listing