15 June 2012

Me and the Muslim Youth Helpline: An Explanation, An Apology and Hope for the Future

The current circumstances at the Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH) are devastating. The MYH is a faith sensitive charity for young Muslims, offering a helpline, webchat, email and signposting support service.  My wife, Akeela Ahmed, until this last Friday was Chief Executive there for some years, and prior to that Head of Support Services.

Currently, confidential communications – some of them involving me, Akeela and the police – are on an anonymous blog identifying itself as a ‘whistleblowing’ group of 30 signatories who signed an initial “statement against the CEO and Helpline manager ”, raised on 18th May.

Understandably, there have been huge concerns about what is published on that blog, based on communications between myself, Akeela and police. I completely understand why so many people who have seen this material are upset, worried and downright angry; and why so many people assume that what we have done is indefensible. Indeed, if I was in your shoes, I’d probably feel much the same way.

But there is a wider context here which has not been publicised. The first element of this wider context is our communications with the police, only a part of which the hackers have disclosed. On that front, I want to state from the outset that we made a fundamental mistake in our approach, and it had an entirely unintended consequence. I of all people should have known better, and we tried, with some success, to neutralise those consequences. But we did what we did in genuine fear, rather than any malice.

The second element of this context is how this information got on the blog in the first place – it did so as fallout from an escalating criminal campaign against the charity and its management since last year. Without understanding how this campaign affected our perceptions and emotions at the time, it is difficult to understand what led us to make this mistake. What follows is not a justification of the actions we took, but an explanation – the lesson of this narrative is, indeed, that whatever illegitimate actions others took, ours should have been wiser.

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