19 July 2012

Report - Race and Reform: Islam and Muslims in the British Media

Earlier this year, I and my colleagues at Unitas Communications – where I’m currently Chief Research Officer – decided to address the issue of British media coverage of Islam and Muslims for the ongoing Leveson Inquiry appointed last year by Prime Minister David Cameron. 

We agreed with the letter to The Guardian signed by over 50 public figures – including people like Bianca Jagger and Jemima Khan – which criticised the Inquiry for focusing largely on high-profile cases of phone hacking affecting celebrities, but very little on broader issues within the Inquiry’s terms of reference on less high-profile cases. However, while that letter called for an "alternative inquiry" - which, however, would ultimately have little in the way of teeth that might actually influence the process of media reform directly, we felt it important that pressure be brought to bear on the Leveson Inquiry to fulfil the terms of reference of its investigations as much as possible.

So we decided to leverage our networks in the relevant media and political sectors, and to do some solid research of our own, to produce a comprehensive report on this issue for submission to the Leveson Inquiry.

In the end, we interviewed a total of 16 media professionals – including journalists and editors across the main print and broadcasting institutions in the UK – as well as scholars, and community leaders. We also examined the key literature on the subject going back as far back as the 1990s.

We eventually completed the report, titled Race and Reform: Islam and Muslims in the British Media, earlier this month – which you can download here. The report was formally submitted to the Inquiry on the 9th of July. Since then, I have published some articles about it which summarise our main findings and recommendations, in Huffington Post (focuses on elaborating the key facts), Le Monde diplomatique (focuses on our key recommendations), and Public Service Europe (a more general summary). 

UPDATE (20.7.2012, 14.57PM GMT) 

The Independent has this morning published another piece by me about the report, 'A New Age of Racism? Why Leveson must investigate anti-Muslim bigotry'.

UPDATE (20.7.2012, 16.48PM GMT)

The London School of Economics (LSE) British Politics and Policy Blog run by the LSE Public Policy Group has just nominated my Huffington Post piece as one of this week's Top 5 Blogs.

4 July 2012

BBC News Vindicates Our Story on Troubles Facing The Muslim Youth Helpline

On 21st June, BBC London News ran an exclusive television report on the recent troubles facing the Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH), about which I had issued this lengthy public statement.

The BBC London News team attempted to contact myself and Akeela several times asking us to give a statement before the camera – going so far as to send reporter Guy Smith round our flat - but we explained to them that due to the harassment we had faced, we had no desire to further inflame tensions on this issue by going public, which we felt would be irresponsible, provoke further attacks on us, as well as potentially invite unnecessary public scrutiny of Muslim communities.

In the end, the report that they ran was very fair and objective, and set the record straight on matters that have been speculated about in the blogosphere and beyond.

It confirmed the following:

1.       The helpline had been suspended in June due to the impact of the hacking activities, which had compromised security severely and created an unsafe environment for volunteers.

2.       The hacking was part of a campaign of harassment and intimidation against my wife Akeela, who was then CEO of MYH, which was designed to cause her to lose her job. The campaign succeeded in doing so - after her personal gmail account was hacked, she resigned to avoid further harassment.

3.       We had contacted the police about this criminal campaign and notified them that we believed it was motivated by an extremist agenda linked to racism and homophobia (which as I clarified in my statement revolved around the employment of a non-Muslim about whom malicious rumours were spread concerning his alleged sexuality).

4.       We had not referred names of helpline workers to the Anti-Terrorism police officers, and this was directly confirmed by Scotland Yard, who stated that nothing of the sort was received by them.

Unfortunately when the crimes were reported to Marylebone Police Station, we were told that a criminal investigation would not be proceeding and that Anti-Terrorism had been asked to look at the case. What the BBC London News report confirms is that Scotland Yard had very quickly assessed the case and sent it straight back down. However, the police hadn’t communicated any of this to us, which is why I had chosen to reach out to a senior police officer I had come into contact with working at the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on Prevent strategy, with a view to get a proper police investigation into the criminal activities we had reported.

That criminal investigation is thankfully still underway. 

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