The British Muslim Initiative is the sister organisation of the terrorist group, Hamas. Its President is Mohammad Sawalha: a man who the BBC identified as the mastermind of “much of Hamas’ political and military strategy”, and as responsible for directing “funds, both for Hamas’ armed wing, and for spreading its missionary dawah”. Its senior members include Azzam Tamimi, the Hamas Special Envoy who once expressed a desire to commit a suicide bombing.
Yesterday evening, we received a letter from Anas Altikriti of the British Muslim Initiative, threatening legal action against us.
It is a great relief to be the subject of mere legal threats. In Gaza, where Hamas is in power, they prefer to settle disputes with political opponents by murdering them.
The reason that the British Muslim Initiate is upset with us is this. This weekend, Mr Sawalha attended a demonstration against a festival celebrating the re-founding of the State of Israel. He gave a speech, in Arabic, to Al Jazeera. In that speech, he stated that the purpose of his demonstration was to:
“express our resentment at the celebrations by the Jewish community”
He also made another statement, which has been the subject of some dispute. Al Jazeera initially reported the phrase in question as containing the word “الوبيل”. That word translates as “evil” or “baneful”, or some variant thereon. The next word was “يهودي “, which means “Jew” or “Jewish”. We translated the phrase, as it appeared, as “evil Jew” or “Jewish evil”.
Some time later, the word “الوبيل ” was removed from the Al Jazeera report. It was replaced with the word “اللوبي “, “lobby”.
The British Muslim Initiative then issued a bombastic “press release”, which it pasted in our comments section, claiming that we had:
“deliberately skewed the word ‘Lobby’ to turn it into some other word and make it seem as though it means ‘evil/noxious’”
It went on to describe Mr Sawalha as a promoter of “community relations and cultural dialogue”, and object to him being “demonised” as a “‘Jew-hater’ and ‘anti-Semitic’.”
I do not know Mr Sawalha. However, if he is a senior Hamas activist, and a supporter of that organisation, I cannot imagine he has anything positive to contribute to “community relations”. Moreover, it is very unlikely that any British court would regard it as defamatory to describe a Hamas activist as a racist. Hamas is a proudly racist, and genocidal terrorist organisation.
A little later, an Al Jazeera reporter called Medyan Dairieh appeared in the thread, insisting that Mr Sawalha had spoken of the “Jewish Lobby”. He explained that the original report contained a spelling mistake. However, instead of apologising to Harry’s Place and to the British Muslim Initiative for his hopelessness as a journalist, he accused us of having “no common sense” for thinking that a Hamas activist would use the phrase “Evil Jew”.
I can form no conclusion on what precisely Mr Sawalha said at Sunday’s demonstration. The meaning of the words “وبيل” and “يهودي ” have been extensively discussed in the comments of the thread below. Initially, defenders of Mr Sawalha claimed that in Arabic, “Jew” meant “Zionist”. When that argument fell apart, there was some debate as to whether the word “يهودي ” means “Jew” or “Jewish”. The defenders of Mr Sawalha insisted that the word could not be used to mean “Jew”. However, the leading dictionaries suggest that it can be used in this manner. There was also some disagreement as to how likely it was that a careless journalist would have mistyped the word “evil, “الوبيل” when intending to type the word “اللوبي “, “lobby”.
It is possible that Mr Sawalha railled against the “evil Jewish Lobby”, rather than the “evil Jew”. What I find astonishing, is that the British Muslim Initiative thinks that it is somehow better to be caught out inveighing against – not the policies of the Israeli Government, not the “Israel Lobby”, not even against the “Zionists” – but against the “Jewish community” and the “Jewish Lobby”. It is clear from their letter that they see no problem with saying any of that. How bold of them.
Here is Mr Altikriti’s letter to us:
Your piece on comments made by Mohammed Sawalha, President of BMI, and published on Al-Jazeera contained a fundamental factual error.
You quoted a piece (translated from Arabic) stating that Mr. Sawalha had described the Jews in Britain as evil/noxious. We have checked the piece that you referred to very closely and contacted the Al-Jazeera office in Doha. It has been confirmed that Mr. Sawalha made no such comment at any time during the interview. This fact can, if you wish, be corroborated by checking for yourself the recording of the interview, which is available in case any further enquiry is made into this matter.
It appears that you have inexplicably grossly mistranslated his reference to the Jewish ‘Lobby’. Whether this mistake was accidental or not, the mistake is extremely serious and the consequences far-reaching.
Therefore, we trust that you will withdraw the said piece with immediate effect and post an explanation of what had taken place, particularly now that some commentators, including Melanie Phillips, seem to have copied your quote, including the error aforementioned and used it for their own purposes. If this is not done immediately, we will have to pursue legal measures.
British Muslim Initiative
Mohammed Sawalha will not sue me. He has no case.
It is as likely that a man identified by the BBC as a senior Hamas activists would witter on about the “evil Jew” as it is that he would be cursing the “Jewish lobby”, evil or not. Both versions show him to be a deeply malevolent man.
As David Irving discovered, when he sued Penguin and Deborah Lipstadt, extremists tend to do rather badly when they look to British courts to exonerate them.
The British Muslim Initiative should stop issuing ridiculous press releases, and issuing legal threats. Given that the success of the British Muslim Initiative rests on creating the wholly false impression that it is the moderate and progressive face of British Islamism, it ought not to be drawing attention to the fact that it has close links with the terrorist group Hamas. A public legal dispute over why Al Jazeera used the word “evil” in a report of its President’s frothing at the mouth speech on the “Jewish Lobby” will not help its case. It will merely result in its true nature, and the links of its senior activists with Hamas, being appreciated more widely. As the British Muslim Initiative’s strategy is to partner with mainstream political organisations and parties, in the hope of skimming off large grants from local authorities, that sort of publicity is likely to harm it fatally.
The bottom line is this. We were entitled to publish our translation of the Al Jazeera text as it originally appeared. Mr Sawalha should direct his complaint to Al Jazeera, not to Harry’s Place.