Ruling

03528-16 Versi v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      8th September 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03528-16 Versi v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. Miqdaad Versi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Why won’t the Left admit the inconvenient truth about Islam? It hates everything else they love”, published on 14 June 2016.

2. The article was an opinion piece in which the author criticised “the Left” for choosing Islam over the LGBT community in the aftermath of the shooting dead of 49 people in Orlando. It criticised a number of political figures for their response to the attack, and said that Islam was “a backward religion which does not tolerate the rights of gays”, and that a “British Imam was hosted by a mosque in Orlando, just days before the attack, saying that death is the answer to the problem of homosexuality”.    

3. The complainant said that the British Imam mentioned in the article was hosted by the mosque in Orlando on 29 March, which could not reasonably be considered “just days” before the attacks. He said that there was no evidence to suggest that the Imam had said that “death is the answer to homosexuality” while speaking at the mosque; he also denied that the Imam had made these precise comments at the University of Michigan in 2013, although he did admit that he may have made other remarks that were “quite outrageous”. 

4. The publication accepted that the British Imam had visited the mosque in Orlando on 29 March. While it was unable to provide evidence of what he had said on that occasion, it highlighted a lecture given by the Imam at the University of Michigan in 2013 titled ‘How to Deal with the Phenomenon of Homosexuality’; it said that a video of the lecture was available on Youtube, and its content had been widely reported by other news outlets. It said that as the reference to the Imam constituted one paragraph in a wide-ranging comment piece, the inaccuracies as to the timing of the visit, or the precise content of the Imam’s speech on this occasion, were not significant. It also said that as the article only contained a brief reference to the Imam, it was entitled to rely on his widely reported views on homosexuality without conducting further research. Nevertheless, it offered to change the article to clarify the points the complainant had raised, and publish the following footnote:

A previous version of this article stated that the British Imam had been hosted by a mosque in Orlando “just days before the attack, saying that death is the answer to the problem of homosexuality”. We are happy to make clear that the Imam spoke at the mosque in March 2016, and his specific comments on homosexuality were attributed to him in 2013.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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.

Findings of the Committee

6. The article was a polemic which criticised the “the Left” for choosing Islam over the LGBT community in the aftermath of the Orlando attack. While the publication was unable to provide evidence that the Imam had said that “death is the answer to the problem of homosexuality” when he visited the mosque in Orlando, in circumstances where he was reported to have made similar comments on a previous occasion, and he was speaking about homosexuality at the Orlando lecture, the Committee did not consider, in the absence of a complaint from the Imam, that the article gave a misleading impression of his views on the topic. Nor did the Committee consider that the inaccuracy in relation to the date of the Imam’s visit to Orlando was significant: the timing of the speech at the mosque was not central to any of the arguments made in the article. There was no breach of Clause 1 on either point. Nonetheless, the Committee welcomed the publication’s offer to publish a clarification addressing these points.   

Conclusions

7. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 15/6/16
Date decision issued: 12/8/16