Libel Laws

The Guardian Has Received ANOTHER Libel Threat

Last week, The Guardian ran an excellent article by the academic, Delwar Hussain, on the legacy of the Bangladesh War of Liberation. In particular, Delwar discussed the involvement of the clerical fascist political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, in that conflict:

Atrocities were committed by the occupying Pakistani soldiers and their Bengali collaborators. The latter, known as razakars, were against the break-up as it was contrary to their vision of building an Islamic khilafat, or state. Thus the idealism of a secular identity, based upon Bengali nationalism as articulated by Mujibur Rahman was abhorrent to them. The razakars were in the main members of Islamist parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which is allied to Wahhabism and to the fundamentalist Deobandi sect.

Using local knowledge, they perpetrated the worst brutalities and massacres of the war. They rounded up and executed people who they thought were colluding with India to divide Pakistan. This included members of the Awami League party, intellectuals, guerrilla fighters who were involved in skirmishes against the army and Hindus. In reality, much of the killing was indiscriminate. The carnage of those few months has been collected in rooms full of black and white photographs in the Liberation Museum in Dhaka.

They depict chilling images of mass burial pits with decomposing bodies, the remnants of the slaughter of entire villages.

Prominent members and supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami are now well embedded within the United Kingdom. They more or less run the Muslim Council of Britain and the East London Mosque/London Muslim Centre. The Imam of the East London Mosque distinguished himself recently by signing the notorious Istanbul Declaration, which the Government regards as a threat of terrorism against the Royal Navy and ‘everyone standing with the Zionist Entity’. The London Muslim Centre, similarly, regularly hosts meeting by extremists, including the Al Qaeda cleric, Awlaki.

Thanks to the efforts of judges like Mr Justice Eady, and England’s claimant-friendly law of Defamation, activists connected to Jamaat-e-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood routinely instruct their solicitors to fire off letters before action, claiming that their poor client’s reputations have been sullied, whenever blogs or newspapers report on their words, deeds, or the politics of the organisations to which they belong. Harry’s Place receives these sorts of letters all the time.

And now – as I predicted last week – the Guardian has apparently received such a libel threat from solicitors representing Mr Mueen-Uddin. The Guardian has responded by deleting from Delwar Hussain’s article the following passage:

A Channel Four documentary from 1995 made allegations of involvement by British Bangladeshis in the genocide. Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, director of Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS, who was until recently vice-chairman of the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre and was involved in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain, is one of the most prominent people to be accused of having carried out war crimes.

Mueen-Uddin is alleged to have been part of a group that abducted and “disappeared” people. Witnesses at the time describe seeing him kidnapping a university professor and a journalist in Dhaka during the war. Mueen-Uddin told the documentary makers “all the accusations being made against me are … utterly false and malicious, and either politically motivated or instigated otherwise”.

Having left the newly created country of Bangladesh for London, Mueen-Uddin, along with other members of JI set up Islamic Forum Europe, an avowedly Islamist organisation connected to the East London Mosque.

In its place, the Guardian has printed this cryptic message:

• On 13 October this article was changed following a legal complaint.

Fortunately, I live in New York. This blog is also hosted in the United States. I am therefore protected by the Libel Terrorism Protection Act.

The Guardian, by contrast, struggles to report factual information while handicapped by a law which is a serious and disturbing threat, to freedom of expression, the fight against extremism, and the struggle for justice by the people of Bangladesh.


Also see The Spittoon:

Following closely in the heels of the Trafigura gagging order, this is yet another example of the Guardian being silenced at the wave of a chequebook. But the Trafigura incident did demonstrate to us how e-activism on twitter can be used as pressure-tool to reverse and withdraw gagging orders.

Those who are in favour of freedom of expression and justice in Britain must counter this despicable underhand move by Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin.