Freedom of Expression,  Libel Laws

A T Sol Writes: “Dear Daud, Eff Off”

Iain Dale has the letter:

Letter from the Treasury Solicitor, acting on behalf of HMG

8th April

Farooq Bajwa & Co
Regent House
Nuffield Place
London W1H 5YN

Dear Sirs

Dr Daud Abdullah

We act for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and have been passed a copy of your letter to her dated 31 March.

We understand from your letter that your client, Dr Daud Abdullah, does not dispute that he is a signatory to the Istanbul Declaration from which the Muslim Council of Britain (the MCB) has distanced itself in its letter of 23 March. We further understand that Dr Abdullah has not yet sought personally to disavow the content of that Declaration, and that he has not taken any action to withdraw his signature from it.

We assume that Dr Abdullah would not dissent from the view that the contents of the Declaration are a matter of legitimate and substantial public concern, and that, as the Government Minister with lead responsibility for community relations and faith matters, the Secretary of State has a clear duty to comment on the issues raised by it, especially since Dr Abdullah has signed it whilst holding a senior position in the Muslim Council of Britain which has been one of the Government’s interlocutors in the Muslim communities.

In the light of the Secretary of State’s duty, and given that your client appears to stand by the contents of the Declaration, we consider that the assertions made in your letter are misplaced.

You complain on behalf of your client that, in her letter dated 25 March 2009 which was published in The Guardian on 26 March, the Secretary of State commented that the declaration which your client signed,

“supports violence against foreign forces – which could include naval personnel.”;

That comment was based upon, and fully warranted by, the wording of paragraph 8 of the Declaration, which provides as follows:

“The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters…as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways.” [emphasis added]

If, as you insist on his behalf, your client did not intend the Declaration to be seen as a call to attack foreign warships, then surely he should not have signed it whilst it contained paragraph 8 and should now take steps to resile from it – as, we understand, the MCB has claimed it has done.

You also insist on your client’s behalf, in relation to the issue of anti-Semitic violence, that he has never advocated violence of any sort, least of all that based on race and or religion; and your client has, in his response to the Secretary of State published on the Guardian website on 26 March, directly stated his position as being

“…absolutely opposed to any attack or violence directed against innocent persons of any faith or no faith anywhere in the world…” [emphasis added]

The Secretary of State’s legitimate concern is however that, far from being “a declaration of political support” as you contend, the Declaration read as a whole does encourage such violence, since Paragraph II 7 provides as follows:

“The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard everyone standing with the Zionist entity, whether countries, institutions or individuals, as providing a substantial contribution to the crimes and brutality of this entity; the position towards him is the same as towards this usurping entity.”

The clear meaning of this is that any supporter of Israel is to be regarded not as innocent, but rather as guilty of the perceived “crimes and brutality” of Israel, and as liable to the same treatment as that which the Declaration calls for against Israel. Elsewhere in the Declaration, reference is made to “jihad and resistance against the occupier until the liberation of all Palestine” [Paragraph II.5]; to Hamas “maintaining the Resistance against the Jewish Zionist occupation” [paragraph II.2]; to the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to broker a peaceful solution as “the false peace process” [paragraph II.3]; and so on.

If, as you insist on his behalf, your client is opposed to all violence of any sort, then that is a further reason why he should not have signed the Declaration and should now distance himself from it.

In this regard, the Secretary of State welcomes the statement dated 26th March (but not issued until 27 March, and in any case subsequent to the Secretary of State’s letter in the Guardian dated 25 March) signed by inter alia Dr Abdullah and agreed at a meeting attended by Mohammad Sarwar MP. While this clearly states that Dr Abdullah rejects violence, the conflict with the Istanbul Declaration remains and Dr Abdullah remains a signatory to it.

The Secretary of State’s preferred course is that these issues are resolved by discussion between all the interested parties, as offered in Mr Rossington’s letter of 25 March and accepted by Dr Bari, Secretary General of the MCB in his letter of 27 March to Mr Rossington. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State does not consider that such discussions can sensibly take place while the threat of legal proceedings remains.

Dr Abdullah will no doubt wish to consider this reply, with the benefit of advice from you. We should make it clear, however, that if his decision is to proceed with an action against the Secretary of State, that action will be defended robustly; and the Secretary of State will take all steps necessary to vindicate her position in front of a judge and jury. We hope this will not be necessary; but if proceedings are issued, we confirm that we have instructions to accept service on behalf of the Secretary of State.

It follows, of course, that your offer of settlement is rejected.

Yours faithfully,