Getting Over-excited Over a Non-apology

Anyone who remembers the furore over the Policy Exchange report The Hijacking of British Islam: How extremist literature is subverting mosques in the UK will remember that at the time there was fair criticism of Policy Exchange’s response to accusations that some of the receipts that they later provided to BBC’s Newsnight looked a bit suspect.

However, nobody with any knowledge of the British Islamist scene will have doubted the essential accuracy of the report’s central contention: that extremist literature is widely available inside certain of the bookshops attached to Britain’s mosques. In some cases – from what we know about politics of the mosques – this literature is actively promoted by the mosque authorities. In others, it is evidently distributed without their knowledge.

A couple of the mosques mentioned in the Policy Exchange report not only denied the accusations, but threatened legal proceedings. I do not know if they were even launched. In any event, one  of these, the Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre recently reached an out-of-court settlement with Policy Exchange. This is the text of the agreed statement:

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.

This seems pretty clear, and a sensible and grown up resolution of the matter. Leafing through my copy of the report, it is clear that Policy Exchange had never actually accused the authorities at Al-Manaar – which from what I know of it, is a relatively mainstream mosque – of participation in, or even knowledge of, the distribution of extremist literature. All they had said was that this had taken place within the mosque. The agreed statement simply clarifies that point. There is no apology.

Furthermore, there is no statement that damages – or even costs – have been paid to anybody: which almost certainly means that they weren’t.

All in all, that looks like a good result for all concerned. A moderate mosque gets a chance to emphasise that the nutters were not operating with their consent from their establishment, and makes it clear that they stand strong against extremism. Policy Exchange also escapes a bothersome legal suit. Everybody gets to walk away with their honour – and bank balances – intact. Bad news for lawyers – boo hoo – but good news for British Muslims and opponents of Islamism.

The settlement has obviously upset the ludicrous Bob Pitt: the former Ken Livingstone groupie who spins semi-professionally for terrorist groups and racist clerics. He claims that the settlement is a “humiliating climbdown”. It just isn’t. A similar song is being sung by iEngage: the think tank that is run by Inayat Bunglawala, and headed up by Mohammed Ali Harrath, who is the subject of an Interpol “Red Notice“, relating to allegations of terrorism offences in Tunisia.

It is also a pity that Sunny is also following the Pitt/Bunglawala line on this. He shouldn’t be.

The killer ‘fact’ is that Policy Exchange has taken the report in question off the website. However, I noticed that it had been taken off the website some time ago. Sadly, that is the sort of thing that you have to do, when lawyers get involved defending libel claims. It evidently isn’t part of the Al Manar settlement. There is, unfortunately, an ongoing action against Policy Exchange by the fugitive Hamas commander and co-signatory of the infamous Istanbul Declaration, Mohammed Sawalha. You’ll remember that Sawalah also once tried to sue us. A solicitor’s letter was as far as things went.

Now, look.

I know there are some people who loathe Policy Exchange, because it is a centre-right organisation. Politics is tribal. However, for a centre right think tank, Policy Exchange is impressively good at cross party work, on issues where consensus exists. Put simply, if you’re joining up with Bob Pitt  and Bungle to take feeble pot shots over the Al Manar settlement, you’ve ever so slightly lost your bearings.

To proclaim that this innocuous statement, agreed by both parties, is a humiliating apology isn’t just misleading – it’s absurd.