Exclusive: Policy Exchange forced to apologise; takes report off website


8:31 am - March 30th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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The right-wing thinktank Policy Exchange has been forced into a humiliating climbdown over its report, ‘The Hijacking of British Islam’, for making allegations in the report that it now admits were unsubstantiated.

In late 2007 Policy Exchange published the report, reported in the right-wing press without any further fact-checking, that around a quarter of Mosques and Muslim centres of the 100 they visited, were carrying ‘hate literature’.

Only BBC Newsnight bothered looking further and found that some of the allegations made in the report were refuted by the very organisations accused of selling hate literature.

See the Newsnight report below:

In response to the Newsnight report (see this update), both Dean Godson (head of its Foreign Policy & Security Unit) and Charles Moore (chair of the board) huffed and puffed – saying the BBC should have focused on the report, despite its false allegations, rather than exposing holes in their own report. Its representatives had even threatened legal action against the BBC.

Charles Moore himself stated:

Policy Exchange bases its work on evidence, and so its evidence must be sound.

And so on 19th December Policy Exchange released a statement standing by their report.

But when Policy Exchange didn’t say more, or alert others to progress with its internal inquiry, two of the groups mentioned in the report launched legal action against Policy Exchange.

I emailed a senior Muslim community worker about the case. He said, off-the-record:

When I met MCHC management recently, I asked them about the legal case. They told me that PE had agreed to change the text of their report and apologise to MCHC on their website, to avoid the full legal action. I’m now told that the mosques report has been removed entirely from the PE website. If this is true, I wouldn’t be surprised, since changing the report and apologising publicly would have been humilation for them, so my guess is that they took the option of quietly removing the report from the website.

Policy Exchange has indeed withdrawn the entire report from its website.

It has also published this humiliating apology:

The Hijacking of British Islam:
Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre

In this report we state that Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre is one of the Centres where extremist literature was found. Policy Exchange accepts the Centre’s assurances that none of the literature cited in the Report has ever been sold or distributed at the Centre with the knowledge or consent of the Centre’s trustees or staff, who condemn the extremist and intolerant views set out in such literature. We are happy to set the record straight.

Charles Moore hasn’t said anything about the controversy recently.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Terrorism ,Think-tanks

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Reader comments


Well now. I wonder if ‘Ratbiter’ will be covering the story in Private Eye this week? He was very keen to cover it after Newsnight – and back up Policy Exchange.

So the entire report was wrong?

No extremist literature to woory about then?

Phew…

Doesn`t mean it isn

4. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Don’t be a silly billy, there’s always this lot peddling extremist filth.

http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/news/Police-close-race-hate-duo/article-851921-detail/article.html

“So the entire report was wrong?

No extremist literature to woory about then?

Phew…

This isn’t a matter of Policy Exchange making an error within an otherwise sound report, it’s a case of out and out forgery.

Of course there is extremist literature on sale in this country, but that’s just one important issue. Policy Exchange seek to exert their influence across many important issues and they have massive sway within the party almost certainly soon to become the next government. The Director of Policy exchange is now the Mayor of London’s Director of Policy and it was set up by Michael Gove and Nick Boles. Isn’t it a rather important story that this organisation has been found to manufacture deliberately divisive propaganda? Doesn’t that worry you at all?

“Policy Exchange accepts the Centre’s assurances that none of the literature cited in the Report has ever been sold or distributed at the Centre with the knowledge or consent of the Centre’s trustees or staff”

But without such consent, was it still done?

Haha. Stupid Policy Exchange fanatics. Looks like this is the first shot in the Think Tank Wars. Who will be next?

#6 Clearly your statement is phrased in such a way that it can’t possibly be falsified. Except in a totalitarian state where the actions of all individuals were monitored and reported on a continuing and 100%-accurate basis, no-one can prove that literature has never been passed on from one individual to another in a public or semi-public place.

However, if Policy Exchange had any evidence whatsoever of the literature being sold or distributed at the Centre with OR without consent of the staff there, don’t you think they would have said so rather than making this embarrassing climbdown and removing the report?

tim f – I agree, the problem is not extremism, it’s those nasty think-tanks which are the real problem

Can’t Islamic extremism AND think-tanks lying both be problems?

Do you think think-tanks lying helps or hinders combatting Islamic extremism?

I doubt if the one has much if anything to do with the other…

@5 Adam

The immediate assumption appears to be that PE fabricated evidence and then shoved it into a report. What evidence do YOU have that this was the case? There are countless ways that this literature could have come into the hands of PE (e.g. people who attended the mosque and lied to PE) and suggesting that this literature was actually forged and manufactured by PE authors is nothing more than wild speculation on your part (and several other people’s, judging by the comments).

And, on a broader note, to try and paint this as some kind of humiliation for PE when they have apologised to one – yes, one – mosque for wrongly implicating it suggests that you have lost sight of the fact that other mosques are spreading precisely the kind of literature that might endanger this country. A bit of perspective would have been nice.

Shorter cjcjc: “Move on, nothing to see here.” [whistles idly]

Shorter Neil/Sunny:”if only PE would shut up then we wouldn’t have a problem” [stick heads back in ground]

If there’s a problem, there’s a problem. Why lie about it?

16. organic cheeseboard

There are countless ways that this literature could have come into the hands of PE (e.g. people who attended the mosque and lied to PE) and suggesting that this literature was actually forged and manufactured by PE authors is nothing more than wild speculation on your part

well, not really. From the BBC:

The first anomaly we found was in the receipt said to have been obtained from the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in West London. The document contained basic spelling errors in the address (see below). We showed it to the centre’s director who strongly denied it was genuine.

When we looked at some of the other receipts we were concerned enough to suspend our broadcast while we checked them. This approach was derided by Policy Exchange’s chairman, Charles Moore, who suggested we should have simply broadcast the findings and allowed the mosques to have their say. We took the view that this was not a sensible way forward and began detailed checks.

We soon found suspicious inconsistencies in receipts allegedly obtained from North London Central Mosque, Euston Mosque, Leyton Mosque in London and the Muslim Education Centre in High Wycombe. Most worryingly:

– forensic evidence suggested that at least one receipt had been forged

– forensic evidence strongly suggested that two other receipts – supposedly from different mosques – were in fact written by the same hand

– there were basic mistakes in the addresses printed on three receipts

– all of the receipts we had suspicions about had been printed on home-style ink jet printers. Ink jets are usually used for one-offs or for limited print runs because of expense.

We’re republishing the receipts so you can judge for yourself.

and so can you.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2008/05/policy_exchange_dispute_update.html

LFAT- The receipts came from Policy Exchange’s own researchers, they didn’t just fall into their hands. The BBC broadcast clear evidence that they had been fabricated. Watch the Newsnight report.

Who said there isn’t a problem? But it would be nice if we had a good perspective of the problem with accurate reporting – not falsified reports conjured up to coincide with state visits to gain maximum publicity.

On top of that – when the report came out they wanted this stuff banned. On what grounds? If it was illegal stuff that directly incited violence then the police could have stepped in. But no, actually they want a ban on speech and sentiments they don’t like.

So Policy Exchange don’t really stand for free speech either.

cjcjc’s attitude directly mirrors that of Charles Moore – why are you fact-checking us?! you should just report this without any further investigation because there are ISLAMONAZIS running around! Don’t you believe in western civilisation?

Funny that when there’s a questionable-but still-within-the-realms-of-reasonable use of a single statistic in some text from a centre-left campigning organisation it’s enough bring an entire campaign into question, but calling out a right-wing think-tank when evidence has been fabricated is not allowed because it might distract from the wider issue.

Did they want them banned?

I don’t. Exposed, yes. Banned, no.

spot on tim f.

You forgot to add ‘by any means necessary’, cjcjc.

I’m doubting the whole report.

No mosque I’ve ever been to gives receipts on books, and it’s very unlikely that if the book contains extremist views, the seller will give a receipt, even if insisted upon.

I’m not saying that there aren’t extremist literature in some Mosques, I’m saying that this report is based on lies, and that the number of mosques peddling extremist literature is nowhere near a quarter, more like one or two in the whole country.

I’m sure you’ll all be keen to know that toight at 8pm on C4 from the people who brought you “Undercover Mosque” – Dispatches presents “The Trouble with Boris” – yes, that Boris.

Sounds fun!

25. organic cheeseboard

only a year and two months after their hatchet job on ken livingstone eh?

26. Shatterface

I’m glad to see Liberal Conspiracy thinks special interest groups should stick to evidence and not simply invent ‘facts’ simply because they happen to support their arguments.

(Bookmarked for future reference.)

Are you remotely interested in the facts, Sunny? Your report is just spin.

One problem: Policy Exchange never claimed that the mosque authorities knew the literature was being distributed on site.

Another problem: the Policy Exchange website was redesigned a while back and a whole load of old reports are no longer available on it.

Third problem: if the mosque was certain that the literature had never been on the premises then why did it settle for zero damages, no costs and a carefully worded non-apology that did not withdraw the original assertion?

Another problem: the Policy Exchange website was redesigned a while back and a whole load of old reports are no longer available on it.

There’s older reports on their site.. and the link to the PDF is taken off.

Third problem: if the mosque was certain that the literature had never been on the premises then why did it settle for zero damages, no costs and a carefully worded non-apology that did not withdraw the original assertion?

As far as I’m aware, the exact conditions of the settlement are not available to the public.

spin eh?? Policy Exchange could never be accused of such a thing…

Third problem: if the mosque was certain that the literature had never been on the premises then why did it settle for zero damages, no costs and a carefully worded non-apology that did not withdraw the original assertion?

As far as I’m aware, the exact conditions of the settlement are not available to the public.

Sunny, if those were the terms of the settlement, would you revise your story?

“Of course there is extremist literature on sale in this country,”

Indeed, and it strikes me that the last thing you want to do is *lie* about it. What’s the point? More to the point, why do people defend this? Bizarre, I find it.

Policy Exchange have nothing to contribute to public life in this country, period. That they keep proving this shows their supporters up for rank know-nothing idiots.

sunny mate,

do you honestly think that no extremist literature is being made available through some Islamic institutions in the uk?
i actually read the policy exchange report when it came out – and loads of it was stuff from saudi. do the saudis have loads of cash? yes.
are the saudis using their cash to promote wahhabist extremism? er, yes.
are the saudis putting their money into funding some islamic institutions in this country? yes.
is it entirely likely that the saudis are promoting their intolerant version of islam here? yes. of course.

so why are you so hung up on trashing policy exchange? is it just cos its a right-wing think-tank?

why is it so inconceivable that the report might be based on a core of truth??

(as an aside, it doesn’t seem to me that the policy exchange statement is a “humiliating apology”. they just say they accept that the mosque leaders didn’t know the stuff was there. again, if you actually read the original report you’d know that the report didn’t say otherwise)

Sunny, if those were the terms of the settlement, would you revise your story?

Well, you let me know if there’s anything factually wrong with my piece, and I’d be happy to revise it.

33. organic cheeseboard

is it entirely likely that the saudis are promoting their intolerant version of islam here? yes. of course.

so why are you so hung up on trashing policy exchange? is it just cos its a right-wing think-tank?

the point is – and it;’s been made before on this thread – if the problem is that big, and if it’s that self-evident, then evidence should be both easy to come by and unquestionable in its accuracy.

Instead PX falsified information several times.

So the leading questions can be directed not at the people who highlight this poor quality research, but at the people who sanctioned and stood by the research.

In what way, precisely, has Policy Exchange been ‘forced into a humiliating climbdown’?

Their version has not changed one iota since the report, as anyone who has actually read it will agree. The report specified that the intolerant literature may have been on sale without the knowledge of the mosque management. Further, it stated that the mosque may need help from the authorities in coping with ‘rogue sellers’.

The Policy Exchange statement above merely repeats what was said in the report. ‘Wishful thinkers’ can claim that this amounts to a ‘humiliating’ apology, but the fact remains that the mosque knows better. The proof? The trustees did not seek damages. End of story.

35. Theo Blackwell

I am the (Labour) councillor for the ward where the Euston Mosque is. Many of my local constituents go there. When the initial Policy Exchange report was published, I was concerned both by the allegations made in the report and ther revelations from the BBC about the receipts.

I contacted Policy Exchange via email wanting to clarify the situation, as I was worried about the implication is had for the area. As I used to work around the corner from Policy Exchange I even offered to meet with them at their convenience.

I received no response and not even an acknowledgement to my email.

For allegations of this kind, which I take seriously – I would have expected a response, getting no change from them makes me question their bona fides.

What sort of ‘liberal’ website is this that has sidelined the nature of the literature found in some of the mosques, in favour of what has become a vendetta against a think tank of a different outlook? On the Newsnight report, one mosque did not conceal the fact that it sold a book with the unforgettable title: ‘women who deserve to go to hell’.

Let me assure you that for Muslim women, words like ‘liberal’ or ‘right’ or ‘left’ or ‘right-of-centre’ or ‘left-of-centre’ are mere labels. What disappoints us is that in the interests of scoring points to further a pathetic ‘political’ rivalry, the misogynists in many mosques have been given a free pass to continue stocking offensive material.

The effect of this political spat came back to haunt us when the same ‘women who deserve to go to hell’ was on sale at the Global Peace and Unity event last October – an event in which many of the same mosque elders participated. Do ‘liberals’ even stop for one moment to consider the effect such titles have on our young girls?

Sorry to come over all vernacular, but which part of “DON’T LIE” do these PX defenders not get?

I’ve followed this saga closely and have always found the logic of this ‘controversy’ to be flawed.

Newsnight raised doubts about a minority of the receipts (five out of eighteen) accumulated by Policy Exchange’s researchers – so there is an allegation, unproven, hanging over a proportion of the receipts.

But the report was not dependent on the receipts – indeed they are never mentioned in the 200 page document!

In some cases the presence of the extremist literature is not even contested – the East London Mosque – like Al-Manaar more recently – simply admitted that they had no control over the literature sold in their institution.

In other cases extremist literature was freely advertised on institutions’ websites!

So anyone of remotely average intelligence should see that the notion that the whole Policy Exchange report was “unsubstantiated”, and rendered valueless by allegations about 5 receipts, is patently absurd.

I would not have bothered to write this if the problem with your article was merely its ludicrous analysis and hysterical tone. The real problem is that you willfully obscure the greater issue – the presence and distribution, in some cases undisputed, of radical and extremist literature in some prominent British mosques.

So why forge 5 reciepts? Why? Anyone?

40. organic cheeseboard

the notion that the whole Policy Exchange report was “unsubstantiated”, and rendered valueless by allegations about 5 receipts, is patently absurd.

Well – maybe. But why not email policy exchange to ask them to redraft, and then rehost, their report on this basis?

you willfully obscure the greater issue – the presence and distribution, in some cases undisputed, of radical and extremist literature in some prominent British mosques

In some cases, yes. And if it was only the undisputed stuff in the report then it’d be fine.

But one has to ask why PX researchers would have bothered to forge this stuff if it was so endemic. If the real evidence is damning, why make stuff up (which they pretty clearly did)?

Dwelling on the fact that PX (who have published a number of inflammatory reports on these themes) have very poor standards of accuracy in their reports is not, i think, to be skirting the issue. Why would they fabricate evidence if the stuff that’s unquestionable is so damning?

^^^

The ‘forgery’ of the five receipts is, as far as I know, an allegation: unproven, and far from certain. Indeed the use of handwriting samples as tiny as those involved in receipt-writing to justify claims of forgery is not without its problems and uncertainties.

Your question “why fabricate evidence if the stuff that’s unquestionable is so damning” is one worth dwelling upon – and should equally make you question the veracity of the allegations – and their overall significance to the debate.

But I’m heartened by the fact that you accept there is a larger debate/ issue at hand here.

42. organic cheeseboard

The problem with this ‘larger debate’ side of these discussions is that it tends to obscure the often very dubious nature of the intricacies of the argument. We can all agree that Islamism is bad, but a lot of claims about what constitutes Islamism, made by fairly prominent figures, are often unverifiable.

Your question “why fabricate evidence if the stuff that’s unquestionable is so damning” is one worth dwelling upon – and should equally make you question the veracity of the allegations – and their overall significance to the debate.

But they’re clearly pretty significant if they make PX take down the entire report, as opposed to amending it.

If you want to know how widespread extremism is in the Muslim community, you need trustworthy information and it’s clear that PX can’t actually provide that (instead of redrafting the report they’ve deleted it). Which is why these minutiae are actually important to ‘the debate’, because if the information about the extent of extremism in British mosques is suspect, and is canned by the people who published it, then we will have to have the debate on other terms, relying on other evidence.

I think that this is also significant for another reason – PX’s publications on British Islam are cheerled by a whole host of commenters in the media and generally get a lot of coverage. PX expected Newsnight to run their claims as fact and other media outlets did.

In wider terms I’d like to see think tank publications be a lot less dominant on the British media in general. So many news stories and comment pieces nowadays are based on x or y report, generally of dubious provenance, from a think tank that’s clearly skewed to one political interest or another (PX for example is openly, and hardline, neoconservative).

I don’t get how anyone takes them seriously since they argued Northerners should all move down to London…

In case anyone here else is feeling a distinct sense of deja vu, I suggest googling the phrase good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance

^^^^

In regard to the report being taken down – this might be temporary, to await the conclusion of the dispute. There’s certainly nothing to suggest they’ve retracted the content of the report.

As for PX being “dubious” because of a “neoconservative” orientation – as far as I know PX has no foreign policy agenda, and in any case the report relates to domestic issues! So it can hardly be “neoconservative”.

And “hardline”? There is good reason to be “hardline” towards Islamism!

“very poor standards of accuracy in their reports”. Are you now claiming all PX reports are subject to inaccuracy, on the basis of unproven allegations over 5 receipts, relating, in a wholly subsidiary manner, to ONE report? Where’s the due diligence in your reasoning there?

P. S.

“We can all agree that Islamism is bad” – Hold that thought!

A bit of googling on this issue has turned up a lot of very interesting quotes!

Neil, the clue to your quandary is in your willingness to assume Policy Exchange has been lying, and simultaneously that the mosques are not. Yet it is the oldest trick in the book to disown receipts. Such establishments rarely have proper receipts, and improvise if asked to supply one. Osama Saeed, of the Scottish Islamic Foundation, had this to say on his blog:
http://www.osamasaeed.org/osama/2007/12/newsnight-rips.html

Quote: “At North London [Central] Mosque they said the literature was free but that there is an expectation in these scenarios to make a donation. That is simply not true for any free stuff I’ve seen in mosques. Policy Exchange insisted on giving money for this extremist literature, then say they demanded a receipt.”

Ahmad Sa`d, Imam of North London Central Mosque, was interviewed by islamonline a week after the report was published. Two quotes stand out.
http://www.islamonline.net/livedialogue/english/Browse.asp?hGuestID=CME5SK

1: “The Muslim Council of Britain does regularly organize meetings to discuss issues like these. At the moment there is nothing feasible which I can speak about. Yet, we are planning to do something very soon to write a declaration or something like that in response. The MCB is normally supervising and supporting these things as it speaks in the name of the majority of Muslims in Britain.”

2: “I am not sure about other British mosques in fact. One of the important things we should stress is that no one can deny or claim the existence of such literature.”

So there you have it – the MCB co-ordinated a common response of denial for the mosques, as it claims to speak “in the name of the majority of Muslims in Britain”. The second quote is not quite a ‘categorical denial’, is it?

The bottom line is this: those who have much to hide took advantage of Policy Exchange’s eagerness to supply western standards of evidence. The mosques then waited for instructions from the Muslim Council of Britain to co-ordinate a response, as outlined by Ahmad Sa`d.

Yet none of this explains the gullibility of some commenters here. If Policy Exchange was indeed ‘lying’, why did it volunteer ALL the receipts to Newsnight? There is only one explanation: the receipts were obtained from the mosques in good faith, and Newsnight’s reporting offered the mosques a free get-out clause. More on Newsnight to follow…

One of the strangest aspects of this story is that no one has questioned the motives of Newsnight. In an interview, Newsnight editor Peter Barron explained his approach to the programme: “If it isn’t a risk-taking, troublemaking, awkward programme,” he says, “then you might as well pack up and go home.”
http://www.davidrowan.com/2004/05/interview-peter-barron-newsnight.html

Just as pertinently, a column in the New Statesman in October 2007, just weeks before the Newsnight report, had this to say: “The air of mild depression that hangs over Newsnight (weekdays, 10.30pm) is not entirely the fault of its presenters. Like all BBC programmes, it is fighting for its budget and has been told to get interactive, which is enough to make anyone tired (it speaks volumes that Peter Barron, its editor, posts his blog only every ten days or so). It also has to deal with a Labour machine that is loath to put its people on anything other than a nicely plumped breakfast TV cushion – which is why it is now mostly a stage for wannabes and hopefuls (Theresa May, Nick Clegg) or, if we’re talking Labour, B-listers and second strings (it’s Labour’s very own end-of-the-pier show). This is obviously castrating, but does the frustration of it leech into other reports? Possibly. In the absence of political fish to fry, its reporters can get a bit overexcited about other subjects.”
http://www.newstatesman.com/200710180039

Newsnight did not set out to report the news, but to make it. This type of sensationalism has no place in public service broadcasting. The sector of the population that has been most wronged in this non-story are Muslim women, since it is they who are most in need of a helping hand against their misogynistic menfolk. Finally, when someone (and it matters not whether they are a ‘right-of-centre’ think-tank or aliens from Mars) tries to highlight the nature of some of the literature available in mosques, Newsnight seeks to kill the messenger. Newsnight owes Muslim women an apology.

I think you need to read up on Occam’s razor, too…

lol – I love how PX apologists are turning up out of the woodwork to basically regurgitate the huffing and puffing Charles Moore and Dean Godson were doing at the time.

Newsnight raised doubts about a minority of the receipts (five out of eighteen) accumulated by Policy Exchange’s researchers – so there is an allegation, unproven, hanging over a proportion of the receipts.

That’s because the case was settled before it went to court… why not ask PX why it didn’t go to court?

Lara,

When claims such as ‘a quarter of British mosques peddling hate literature’ are made, it is expected that all the evidence is correct, especially at a time when relations between the Muslim Community and the rest of Britain is so tense.

No Mosque I’ve ever been to gives out receipts, it just doesn’t happen, even if you demand one. Even your explanation of a third party selling or giving away these books doesn’t make sense, seeing as it would be odd for them to sell them under the letterhead of the mosque. A forgery is the most plausible explanation and not some random conspiracy where PX were duped.

The vast majority of mosques self-censor to make sure that they can’t be accused of such things.

As for your comments about Muslim women, give me a break. Most Muslim women in Britain are happy with their lives and over the past few years, the Muslim community, and not the government, has been at the forefront of tackling issues such as forced marriages etc.

Sunny, you are being ‘holier than the pope’. That the Imam did not see fit to issue an outright denial of the literature a week after the Policy Exchange report was published, is of no consequence! His words were: “no one can deny or claim the existence of such literature”.

For ‘liberals’, bashing the messenger is much more fun, isn’t it? Alas, Muslim women cannot afford that luxury.

52. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

They didn’t ‘raise doubts’ about them, they had a forensic scientist discredit them. PX then called forensic science “libellous and perverse” and threatened to pursue the BBC with legal action “relentlessly, to trial or capitulation” which of course, never happened.

Perhaps once the ‘unavailable’ researchers came back from wherever it was, PX got a nasty shock.

53. organic cheeseboard

policy exchange did not set out to write a balanced and truthfully-researcd report, but to make the news.

is the truth of it. And Newsnight called their bluff.

This type of sensationalism has no place in public service broadcasting.

I agree. But it’s the sensationalism, and evidence manipulation, of PX that is the problem.

Not to mention how hilariously they threw their toys out of the pram when they didn’t get their way (court casae still pending?). As are the commenters on here, who seem happy with fabricated accounts of Muslim radicalism, doing.

Alas, Muslim women cannot afford that luxury.

There are many problems that Muslim women face, in the UK and worldwide. But Policy Exchange isn’t doing much to help them – there are lots of others who are doing some excellent work.

Shafiq, do not ascribe to me claims I did not make. I did not cite ‘a third party’ because no third party was involved. On the contrary, you corroborated my point that mosques do not give out receipts. This is something only those who go to mosques are aware of — and that excludes Policy Exchange and Newsnight.

Policy Exchange was acting according to western standards of evidence in demanding receipts. Since mosques rarely (if ever) hand out receipts, there are no ‘standard’ receipts. They were improvised by the mosques and accepted by Policy Exchange in good faith. By definition, improvised receipts are just that, and cannot be ‘forgeries’. Newsnight was not aware the receipts existed until Policy Exchange volunteered them. That is not what an organisation with something to hide would have done.

Nor did I even come close to suggesting, as you claim, that there was ‘a random conspiracy where PX were duped’. Only Newsnight was duped.

You yourself pointed out the Policy Exchange claim about ‘a quarter of British mosques peddling hate literature’. That leaves the majority, 75% according to Policy Exchange, who do not. You are evidently in agreement with them on that point.

Re Muslim women, you should give me a break. Here we are not discussing whether or not ‘most Muslim women in Britain are happy with their lives’. Try to imagine what it feels like for women and young girls to see titles such as ‘women who deserve to go to hell’ on sale in mosque bookshops, or at events aimed at families such as Global Peace and Unity. If you see nothing wrong with it, then you are part of the problem.

Do you feel qualified to speak for Muslim women, sunny?

Why don’t you help, by highlighting the misogynistic literature in mosques and related bookshops?

I seem to remember that Policy Exchange promised to sue somebody about this. Any news on that front?

Lara,

You’ve completely ignored my point. You said:

Their version has not changed one iota since the report, as anyone who has actually read it will agree. The report specified that the intolerant literature may have been on sale without the knowledge of the mosque management. Further, it stated that the mosque may need help from the authorities in coping with ‘rogue sellers’.

This is the third party I’m talking about. You’re asking me to believe that these ‘rogue sellers’ went home forged a receipt in the Mosque’s name and then gave it to the ‘researchers’?

It also makes no sense for the Mosque to improvise a receipt (and get the address wrong). Most Mosques do have pre-printed letterheads or charity books that would have done equally well with much less hassle. It’s also highly unlikely that a Mosque would agree to give a receipt on a book that could be highly incriminating in the future, even if the customer insisted upon one.

Newsnight was not aware of the receipts specifically, but they were aware that PX claimed to have evidence. PX being willing to give the receipts doesn’t mean anything. I’m also curious as to how they explain the fact that two receipts from different Mosques were written at the same location.

When I said, ‘random conspiracy where PX was duped’, I meant your statement where you claimed the receipts were accepted in good faith by PX who had no idea that they were improvised.

There around 1,500 mosques in Britain. If a quarter of them were peddling extremist literature, it would be very worrying indeed. In my lifetime, I’ve visited around a hundred of these Mosques, and not one peddled extremist literature.

If I was non-Muslim woman and I stepped into a Book-store with that title, I would be very worried (well terrified). But I’ve come across books that are titled ‘Men who are doomed to hell’, which leads me to think that this isn’t a case of mysoginism. After all, Doom-mongering is what religions do best

Guano,

I wouldn’t hold my breath. I also heard that the cultural centre and the north london mosque were preparing their cases.

Apologies Shafiq, your comments came after mine on the North London Central Mosque – comments on the Musim Cultural Heritage Centre were much earlier in the thread.

Of course the ‘rogue sellers’ did not go home to forge a receipt. But by the very nature of their status, they would not have what may be considered ‘official’ receipts. As for getting addresses wrong, you should know as well as any frequent visitor to mosques not to look for precision where none exists. Many mosques have startling variations in the way they compose their addresses (let alone sellers at book fairs), and certainly, many spelling errors inevitably creep in too. That is not newsworthy. Perhaps the truth in this story is too prosaic and unexciting for Newsnight… If you actually read what the reporter wrote on his blog, you will understand why he had many of us laughing at his extreme naivety!

To say that ‘most Mosques do have pre-printed letterheads’ is not my experience. Anything pre-printed is a rarity. This is why so many resort to photo-copying anything with their logo (if they have one). One mosque issued a standard receipt – which the fussy Policy Exchange people were dissatisfied with, and they asked the researcher to go back and fetch something with a logo. Newsnight confirmed the veracity of the standard written receipt, but not the later one on headed paper. That means that the books WERE obtained from that mosque, which is the whole point.

As for it being unlikely for a mosque to give a receipt for a book which is ‘incriminating’, you are forgetting that they were selling/giving these books to fellow-Muslims who had spent time at the mosques and earned their trust.

You should be worried about the literature mosques are selling, since they will influence the next generation. The definition of what constitutes ‘extremist literature’ depends on who you ask. All the books in the report were extremist by my definition, and may even be in yours if you read some of them.

Where did you come across ‘Men who are doomed to hell’? If it was in a general bookstore, it does not belong in this discussion. There is a world of difference between the material you would find in a regular bookshop and one attached to a mosque. A mosque has a duty not to sow prejudice against half of the Muslim population. Newsnight found ‘women who deserve to go to hell’ at the mosque in Wycombe. Has anyone questioned why they sell it, or why the Regents Park Mosque stocks the books which were confirmed by Newsnight? Newsnight certainly has a lot to answer for by going off on its pathetic tangent. It has helped no-one, and has actually harmed the interests of Muslim women.

I certainly enjoyed this exchange with you. The very fact that you are willing to air your views is encouraging, and I’ll look out for your comments on other topics in the future.

lara: Why don’t you help, by highlighting the misogynistic literature in mosques and related bookshops?

I’ve made two documentaries about domestic violence and forced marriages that women of South Asian origin face – and written countless articles. A PX report, and that too badly put together, won’t change squat. Please stop making excuses for a bunch of useless ideologues.

Lara,

No need to apologise. As for the ‘rogue sellers’, it is something we’ll just have to agree to disagree on. I feel that it’s much more likely the receipts were forged by PX than the sellers making fake ones.

In terms of Mosques, I would say that there is a north/south divide, where Mosques in the North tend to be smaller and have pre-printed letterheads or receipt books (for donations that is). They also tend not to have libraries and are very strict about what literature third party people can put in. As I haven’t been to many London mosques, I can’t comment as well on those.

I’ve seen the ‘Men that are doomed to Hell’ book in several Islamic Book stores (again, mainly in the North). I would say that there is a problem with the fact that most of these book are written by people abroad, translated into English, printed and then shipped here with little thought as to it’s content and suitability, but this is beginning to change as more and more of our Islamic Scholars are British born and trained in Britain.

And thanks for actually listening to me rambling on and I’m glad the conversation hasn’t descended into insult-fests like so many other people’s do.

Shafiq,

Thanks once again. There was nothing ‘rambling’ about your comments — on the contrary, you have some actual experiences to share, even though they are not my experiences. We can all go much further with this debate if everyone is civil. Anyone who descends to the level of an ‘insult-fest’ has conceded defeat. Sunny’s response that I am “making excuses for a bunch of useless ideologues” certainly falls in that category and is therefore disappointing. Does it not occur to him that he is in effect protecting religious ideologues?

The way women are treated and discussed in literature does not belong in the realms of ideology. That much should be taken for granted by people living in the West.

Your note about the north/south divide as far as mosques are concerned was very interesting, since I am not familiar with those in the north.

After all the comments on this post — the mystery remains: is it not strange that the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre has not claimed a victory on its own behalf and that it is dependent on sunny to act as its cheeleader? Or that it has not claimed at least nominal damages? It seems fair to conclude that there was no climbdown of any sort — the Policy Exchange statement reprinted above reiterates what it said in the original report. The literature was sold on the mosque premises, without the knowledge of the management. That translates as a concession by the mosque.

If this is a victory for the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, what would a defeat look like?

By not extracting a retraction of the original Policy Exchange claim that literature was being sold without the knowledge of management, it means this conclusion amounts to a climbdown by the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre. It effectively accepts that those receipts were NOT fabricated.

Hopefully, it means that other groups or the press will feel able to exert pressure on the mosques which stock misogynistic literature.

Sunny,

Have you read the PX report to which you refer? The only reason I ask is because if you had you would know that the ‘apology’ to which you refer is nothing more than a reiteration of what the report states in the first place – namely that although extreme literature was obtained in a number of mosques, there was no indication that the mosques’ management was complicit in, or aware of, their distribution. So rather than mistakenly calling this an apology, you should be a bit more honest and call it what really is: a reaffirmation. Do you really think that when al-Manar threatened to sue Policy Exchange the only demand they made was that PX publicly repeat what they have already said in their report? Do us all a favour and get serious, al-Manar clearly lost this.

spot on Joseph. I presume the premise of this thread is misunderstanding rather than misinformation. Did the Policy Exchange report ever say that the literature was sold with the knowledge of the authorities? No. Look at the video. THe question was whether it was sold there at all. And it seems that the al-Manar authorities are not prepared to say that it wasn’t. The pendulum seems to have swung firmly to Policy Exchange on this one.

Oh, come off it. You’re not kidding anyone.

So a statement that includes the phrase “We are happy to set the record straight.” is not an apology, but a ‘re-affirmation’. Right.

Don’t worry tim – I’m reliably informed that a bunch of sock-puppets have been told to go and challenge any mention of this story, and publish anything that would support Policy Exchange, as if to pretend they did nothing wrong. It’s classic FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt tactic).

The above blog post speaks for itself.

69. journeyman

When I first heard about this on going shaggy dog story and the word “receipt” was mentioned,my first instinct was,” good luck mate, you,ll be needing it.It going to be a right shambles.”
I based this premonition on 30 years of purchasing from one local Muslim run buisness or another and if you ask for a receipt,you either get a funny look, or it looks a bit tatty and home made or run out on a home printer.
Why. ? Stationary is expensive to get printed up,unless order in large amounts.
Also, those establishments don,t always conform to the standards we have grown use to, in Western society,with nicely printed out proffesionally letter headed paper.
As to the mis-spelling, who is more likely to get the spelling wrong ? Policy Exchange or somebody somewhat less fluent in English.
In other words,concerning reciepts,it was an ” accident just waiting to happen ”

@Sunny Hundal (69 )
” Don,t worry tim-I,m reliably informed that a bunch of sock puppets have been told to go and challenge any mention of this story,and publish anything that would support Policy Exchange,as if to pretend they did nothing wrong. Its classic FUD ( Fear; Uncertainty; Doubt Tactic )

mmm- a Fud, A Fud. Would that be right wing Fud by any chance ? because that counts me out then.
No seriously for a second, Sunny , I believe many people who have followed this event and made comments here and like Lara who have made some valid points,may find it difficult, and knowing what we know about the well funded Wahabi-Stealth-Jihad, to give the Mosques the benefit of the doubt. if you are going to practice stealth,it would would defeat the entire purpose of it if you owned up.
For Christs sake,how many times does somebody have to say it ” the literature was advertised on their web-site, and yet Paxman answers ” yes ,but thats an entirely different matter”.
Is It ??
You above quoted remark is conspiratorial and not encouraging to (don,t shoot the messanger ) debate. It makes feel guilty of a crime I have not commited.
Subversive literature- in a mosque ? Think-Tank with sly, cunning,conservative,deceitfull agenda ? Policy Exchange deserves a hearing before condemnation–on motive alone.

70. journeyman

Shit, I,ve just discovered I,ve posted a comment on a 2 week old discussion.
I thought it was Policy Exchange 2.
Awfully sorry. How embarrasing.


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