The Telegraph’s veteran journalist, Andrew Gilligan, has been instrumental in the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred in Britain, writes Nishaat Ismail.
If you think unsubstantiated claims, smear campaigns, and bigotry can get you bylines and known in the world of journalism, then you’re quite right, it seems to have worked for the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan. However, don’t expect your readers to perceive you with any integrity, it will on the other hand, earn you a special esteem from the far-right, white supremacists and Islamophobes.
Gilligan has made a career out of malicious misrepresentations, harrying blameless individuals, supporting those who use prejudiced language, and manufacturing lousy journalism to peddle his intolerant and blinkered agenda, which largely involves aspersing Muslims and the Islamic faith. Take for example an article written by Gilligan in January 2014, where the subheading read:
“Muslim mayor Lutfur Rahman in line of fire over public grants in Tower Hamlets, East London.”
The use of the former mayor of Tower Hamlets’ faith was irrelevant in the heading, and only revealed his unabashed Islamophobic rhetoric.
Since Gilligan resigned from his job at the BBC in 2004 after “outing” Dr David Kelly, his vocabulary seems to go little beyond the term “Islamists” and any prominent or well-known Muslim figure that he considers an adversary, seems to be labeled this term, which in has become tantamount with terrorism.
His attacks are not limited to Muslim figures only. In a recent article published by the Telegraph a fortnight ago, Gilligan delivered a tirade at Jeremy Corbyn who is running for Labour’s leadership campaign. In his typical libelous style, Gilligan claims that if Corbyn wins, “Labour will be in the extraordinary position of having a leader with among the most extensive links in Parliament to terrorists”.
It is important to note that Gilligan smears those who side with the Muslim community as “appeasers of extremism” and terrorism. Corbyn is known for speaking out about issues that the British Muslim community feels strongly about, a trait that is notably unique in comparison to other parliamentarians.
Corbyn so far remains the only politician who is staunchly in favor of Palestinian liberation, which has earned him the unfavorable moniker of “friend to extremists”.
In the very same article, Gilligan goes on to say that Jeremy:
“Has hosted, promoted and vigorously defended vicious anti-Semites and racists.”
That’s a rich coming from Gilligan who launched a high profile media campaign against Ken Livingstone back in 2008 in order to promote the Old Etonian bigot, Boris Johnson, to London’s voters during the mayoral election period. Gilligan distastefully defended Johnson’s palpable racist remarks about black people when he referred to them as “picaninnies”. Gilligan’s defense of Johnson was as shambolic as his journalism:
“One of the things that’s happened with Boris, is he’s quite clearly come to understand a little bit more. You see, the things he said about black people were not because he’s a racist I fundamentally do not believe him to be a racist. It was probably because just he did not really understand what London was like.”
Subsequently, one could legitimately argue why Gilligan endorsed his crony to be London Mayor, when it was clear Johnson had little or no understanding about the diversity of Londoners?
Gilligan shot to fame over his reporting of the notorious September 2002 dossier Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, the purpose of which was to garner public support behind the Iraq war.
Such approbation of Gilligan was erroneous as it wasn’t purely an “exposure” of the Blair government’s role in preparing the ground for the illegal invasion of Iraq, but rather Gilligan’s reporting of the “dodgy dossier” established his trademark style of deceitful, vindictive, and inaccurate journalism.
It has been widely claimed that instead of exposing the intelligence community for machinating with the Blair government in presenting the public with a false picture of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, which later turned out to be nonexistent, Gilligan was more concerned in attacking Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s director of communications.
The gale unbridled by his embellished claims about government forgery of the September dossier not only led to Dr David Kelly’s suicide, but Gilligan went out of his way to expose him as his source, a contemptible violation of journalistic ethics.
Gilligan seems to also take great delight in undermining issues encountered by the Muslim community, and regularly maligns them in his weekly blogs.
In 2013, the Sunday Telegraph featured an article by Gilligan, “The truth about the ‘wave of attacks on Muslims’ after Woolwich murder”, in which he dismissed the idea that the Muslim community had faced any serious outbreak of hostility following the death of Lee Rigby. His reasoning was that the government-backed Tell MAMA project, which had reported a rapid increase in Islamophobic incidents, was “overhyping the backlash” and thereby “playing into the hands” of Lee Rigby’s murderers.
Gilligan also fuelled hate against Muslims through his typical invention of lies and amplification during the Trojan Hoax fiasco.
His articles continue to take the same monotonous theme of labeling Muslim organisations and figures that sympathise or display support for significant causes relating to the Muslim community as “Islamist extremists” or abettors of terrorism.
In the aftermath of the revelation that British born Mohammed Emwazi was the knife wielding ISIS militant “Jihadi John”, unsurprisingly he propagated hate and animosity by choosing the heading “Cage: the extremists peddling lies to British Muslims to turn them into supporters of terror”.
This was yet another inaccurate and misleading representation of a prominent advocacy group.
His most recent target has been the prominent Muslim debater, Abdullah al Andalusi, whom he claimed was “By day, at heart of counter-terror policing. And by night, preacher of extremism”.
I mean, there really isn’t a credible mainstream British Muslim organisation or figure remaining who haven’t fell victim to Gilligan’s McCarthyite witch-hunt.
Gilligan’s personal vendettas have been decorated and celebrated by hawkish neoconservatives and Islamophobes as “investigative journalism”. His bombardments of anti-Muslim articles are becoming increasingly more obsessive and inequitable.
If you want to be viewed as a principled and scrupulous journalist, then Gilligan’s example is one to stay far away from.
Nishaat Ismail is a freelance journalist who is currently completing a Masters in Middle East in Global Politics at Birkbeck University. She is also a contributing editor for the Moroccan Times.