Decision of the Complaints Committee – 11891-20 Islamic
Human Rights Commission v thejc.com
Summary of Complaint
1. Islamic Human Rights Commission complained to the
Independent Press Standards Organisation that thejc.com breached Clause 1
(Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in
an article headlined “Government lawyer joined rally featuring call for removal
of Jews from Israel”, published on 27 May 2020.
2. The complaint was made on the complainant’s own behalf
and own behalf of Nazim Ali and Imam Muhammed al-Asi, with their consent. The
article reported on an annual Al Quds Day rally, which in 2020 was held online.
It said that previously “The JC has reported on how past Al Quds Day marches
witnessed calls for extreme violence against Israel”. The article described who
was present and spoke at the rally, as well as containing a quote from a
“campaigner against antisemitism” which stated “I don’t think anybody should
associate with a toxic event like this. It is beyond understanding how someone
who works for the Government Legal Department can possibly justify her appearance
when the event is clearly linked to the violent and radical Islamist ideologies
of the ayatollahs in Iran.’’ The article also referred to how “In June 2017,
Nazim Ali faced a police investigation after he was filmed suggesting Zionists
were responsible for the Grenfell Towers fire tragedy in West London. After
consideration, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute.” The
article also contained a quotation from Imam Muhammad al-Asi which stated
"There are certainly some of the Jewish faith who have the freedom to
settle in the Holy Land. But there are definitely many more others who don't
have the right to be there. So our concern in the future should be on trying to
figure out those of the Jewish faith who have been hijacked by Zionism and sort
them out from the Zionist culprits and war criminals that have to be defeated,
and have to withdraw by force because that is the only option left for them by
their own choice. Begin to speak about who can stay in Palestine.”
3. The complainant, one of the groups who organised the
rally, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. It noted
that the rally took place every year for almost 40 years and that it took place
online this year. It refuted that participants at the event had called “for extreme
violence against Israel”.
4. The complainant also said that referring to the police
investigation of Nazim Ali’s comments regarding the Grenfell Towers tragedy
were not relevant to the story or the calls for extreme violence. It also said
that to omit to refer to a third party campaigning group was misleading as the
campaign had lobbied for the prosecution and attempted to prosecute Mr Ali
privately, as well as judicially review the decision not to prosecute.
5. The complainant also said it was inaccurate to
characterise a quote as being given by a “campaigner against antisemitism” as
the person who gave the quote was controversial and a columnist for the
6. The complainant said that the quote from Imam Muhammed
al-Asi was misleading as it wasn’t reproduced within its full context. It said
that the full speech discussed the rights of Jews including Zionists to settle
in and stay in the Holy Land, and his comments about “war criminals” were very
specific and related to self-defence.
7. The complainant said that the article had failed to give
them an opportunity to reply to their claims in breach of Clause 1.
8. The complainant also said that the article was
discriminatory in breach of Clause 12 as it felt that the complainant as a
corporate body, and also Nazim Ali and Imam al-Asi, who they were representing,
were discriminated against by the article. It said that their religious
affiliation and the ethnic affiliations of some of its members had been
highlighted pejoratively. It said the use of the words “extreme” and “violence”
9. During IPSO’s investigation the publication failed to
respond within IPSO’s time frame. The delay was reported to IPSO’s Standards
Department, and when the publication still failed to respond within the time
limit set by IPSO the matter was proceeded to the Complaints Committee without
the benefit of the publication’s full response.
10. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. The
publication failed to supply any articles where the JC had previously reported
on “calls for extreme violence against Israel”. It said Hezbollah flags had
been raised and chants of “death to Israel” had been heard, but provided no
evidence of this. It did supply a video, which it said showed the head of the
complainant’s organisation calling for “Jihad in Palestine like in Syria” and
members of the crowd cheering this. The video supplied by the publication did
not contain this quote. It started part way through the head of the
complainant’s organisation’s speech and showed him saying that people from
around the world who had left “to go and do Jihad in Syria. What about Jihad in
Palestine?”. It also stated that in 2012 the head of the complainant’s
organisation had been filmed calling to the crowd: “Let’s get rid of the
greatest oppressors in the region, the Zionists, then all our other problems
will be resolved, one by one.” It did not provide the video of this. The
publication also said that an Iranian State television interview the head of
the complainant had said “it is” when asked if resistance was the message of
the Al-Quds Day march. It did not provide the video of this.
11. The publication said that the publication of information
relating to the police investigation of Nazim Ali’s comments regarding the
Grenfell Towers tragedy and the omission of referring to the campaigning group
was not a breach of the Code.
12. The publication said that the person described as a
“campaigner against antisemitism” had investigated concerns about antisemitism
in his blog, and therefore it was not inaccurate to describe him as a
“campaigner against antisemitism”. It also said the person had wrote three or
four articles for the publication, and that they were entitled to use his
comments without having to declare this. It described the man as an expert and
that he was an appropriate source.
13. The publication said that Imam Muhammed al-Asi’s
quotations had not been published selectively or in a way that was misleading.
It also said that the complainant had made similar comments, such as in an
article he wrote for another website and during two speeches at an American
university. It said that clips of these speeches had been published by a project
which investigated racism.
14. The publication said that it had approached the
government lawyer referred to in the headline and the Government Legal
Department for comment.
15. The complainant said that the quotes provided by the
publication were either cropped to the point of distorting their meaning, or in
many cases did not exist. It said that the video supplied by the publication
had clearly been edited and cropped mid-sentence. It supplied a full version of
the speech which included the full quote “You know, people are rushing in large
numbers from Britain, from Europe, from all around the world, from Arab
countries, to go and do jihad in Syria. What about jihad in Palestine? [Cheers
from crowd]. What even not a single one of them gone to fight for Palestine?”
The complainant said this speech was criticising those who went to Syria to
fight and to call out their hypocrisy, and not to say that there should be
Jihad in Palestine.
16. It provided a video of the head of the complainant’s
organisation’s speech from 2012 and said the quote provided by the publication
did not appear in it. It did acknowledge that in his speech of 2013 he said
"We want people to stand up for the oppressed, and stand up for what is
just. Let us get rid of the racist oppressors in the region, the Zionists, then
all our other problems will be solved one by one." The complainant said
that this was not a call for extreme violence against Israel, but a condemnation
of those who were fighting in Syria as hypocrites. It also said it did not know
what interview the publication was referring to as it had provided no evidence
or even named the program. The complainant said that the project the
publication had got the video clips of Imam Muhammed al-Asi speaking to
universities in America came from a discredited study which had been criticised
as being inaccurate, libellous, and inciting Islamaphobia and racism.
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate,
misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not
supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or
distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where
appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence
should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies
should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, 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, sex, gender identity, sexual
orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion,
gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability
must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Findings of the Committee
17. The Committee was very concerned that the publication
had failed in its obligations to respond to IPSO within its set timelines.
However, the publication had supplied a video of a past Al-Quds Day march in
which a speaker had stated that people went “to go and do jihad in Syria” and
then asked: “what about jihad in Palestine?” followed by cheers from the crowd.
The video showed the same speaker saying: “what even not a single one of them
gone to fight for Palestine?”. Whilst the Committee acknowledged that “jihad”
has a multitude of meanings, the reference to “jihad” in the speech referred to
travellers going to two locations that have been the site of armed conflict,
Syria and Palestine. In this context, the Committee found that the publication
was entitled to characterise this as “calls for extreme violence against
Israel” in the article, which focused on the 2020 event. There was no breach of
Clause 1 on this point.
18. The Committee noted that whether information is of
relevance to the article in general does not fall under Clause 1 unless the
inclusion of the information is misleading. In this case, reporting that Nazim
Ali had been investigated by the police was not misleading. The omission of the
campaigning group was also not misleading when reporting the facts that a
police investigation took place. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.
19. The person who had been described as a “campaigner
against antisemitism” had multiple public campaigns against antisemitism, and
therefore it was not misleading to characterise him in this way. In addition,
when quoting from him, it was not a breach of Clause 1 to omit to mention that
he was a controversial figure and that he had previously written for the
publication. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
20. The article had quoted a large portion of a speech by
Imam Muhammed al-Asi. The complainant had not disputed the accuracy of the
quote, and where a large portion of the quote was included in full this was not
21. The right to reply is not a standalone requirement of
the Code, but failing to contact a person or organisation for comment can lead
to a failure to take care under Clause 1(i) where there are allegations in the
article. In this case, the article did not contain unproven allegations against
the Islamic Human Rights Centre directly and did not require a standalone
22. The Code makes clear that the protections of Clause 12
only apply to individuals, and therefore the Clause was not engaged with
regards to the Islamic Human Rights Commission. With respect to the individual
complainants, the Committee did not consider that an allegation of advocacy for
“extreme violence” constituted a pejorative or prejudicial reference to either
man’s race or religion. There was no breach of Clause 12
23. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 15/07/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/06/2021Back to ruling listing