The unprofessional behaviour, comprising of childish slurs, cheap smear tactics and personal attacks on Twitter against me over the last 48 hours could have been avoided if Tell Mama had responded in the manner that they did yesterday, albeit through a weak and misleading “rebuttal” to my article, writes Dilly Hussain.
On Wednesday 6th January, I wrote an article in the Middle East Eye discussing the relevance of the anti-Muslim hate monitoring group “Tell Mama” in light of a new law that will come into effect in April, which will record Islamophobic hate crime as a separate category of crime like anti-Semitism.
Additionally, I also questioned the group’s judgement, after they shared a platform with the infamous Quilliam Foundation, who have continuously been exposed for having links to far-right extremists and Islamophobes in the US.
Firstly, it is important to stress that my article was an opinion piece, and like every human being, I have an opinion which people are more than welcome to agree or disagree with. I never claimed any definitive facts, nor did I dismiss the good work that Tell Mama have done.
What I did argue however was that, in my personal opinion, when the new law comes into effect in April, what use will Tell Mama have? Why should further taxpayers’ money go towards exceptional treatment of Muslims, compared to all other minority ethnic and religious groups living in Britain? Surely, that cannot simply be judged as a “smear” and points to an act of desperation by an organisation that may have suddenly realised that they could cease to exist in the coming months?
Secondly, I do not think I said at any point that Tell Mama had not done any good work – rather, I stated that their aims and objectives were “laudable”. However, I pointed out that existing services that record anti-Muslim hate crime were already adequate, and that the new legislation in April could possibly render them irrelevant. Was this point a “smear”? I think not.
Nevertheless, I am now obliged to respond to Tell Mama’s misleading “self-justification” article, which had a consistent undertone of self-importance, cocktailed with subjective statements about semantics, rather than tackling the issues I thoroughly presented and cited in my article.
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Lastly, the frequent questioning of my credibility as a journalist was quite comical (you will understand why towards the end of the article), and the cheap smear tactic of posting old tweets to attack my character, which I have previously apologised for and explained on numerous occasions as a misjudgement on my part, just demonstrates Tell Mama’s desperation in diverting the serious points of contention that were addressed in my article.
Dear Tell Mama…
1. I did not suggest that public agencies should not fund work on challenging Islamophobia. If Tell Mama took the time to actually read my article, I clearly referenced police recording of Islamophobia and the work of Victim Support, both which are publicly funded bodies.
2. The reference to Tell Mama “launching” their report at a Quilliam Foundation event is from the same source which published the photo of Fiyaz Mughal at Quilliam’s office. You can read “Lapidomedia’s” full article, but to quote an excerpt from their report:
“Tell MAMA’s latest report, launched at counter extremism think tank Quilliam on Wednesday evening, was compiled by researchers at Teeside University’s Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies.”
If Tell Mama felt so strongly about this factual error, why did they not correct this significant point in the original article by Lapidomedia?
3. In an embarrassing attempt to “expose” my supposed double standards, and a means to try and ridicule any link they have to the Quilliam Foundation, Tell Mama referred to an incident when I shared a platform with their outreach officer, Rehman Anwer on British Muslim TV. However, there is a palpable difference between me sharing a media stage with Tell Mama employees, and the director of an organisation that claims to tackle Islamophobia willingly sharing a platform and defended its reasons for doing so, with a group that has associated with some of the worst perpetrators of anti-Muslim prejudice (Gatestone Institute, Tommy Robinson, Ayaan Ali Hirsi, Sam Harris, to name but a few).
The two examples cited by Tell Mama in justifying them speaking at a Quilliam Foundation event were events on a neutral platform hosted by neutral organisations. The same also applies for the iERA extremism debate, where both Fiyaz Mughal and I dealt with each other very honourably, as I did with all the other speakers – even the ones I am diametrically opposed to. However, Fiyaz Mughal sharing a platform with Moazzam Begg and me sharing a platform with Tell Mama on a neutral platform is an entirely different scenario to Fiyaz “launching” (according to Lapiodomedia) Tell Mama’s annual report on a Quilliam platform.
4. I never once accused Tell Mama of “working with” Quilliam. I merely questioned their judgement in speaking at an event hosted by Quilliam, and then emphatically defending their decision for doing so on the Left Foot Forward blog.
5. The questions about academics on Tell Mama’s board is one that I am genuinely interested in, and I look forward to their reappraisal of associating with Tell Mama in light of the information cited in my article.
6. 5Pillars is a news site, the second busiest Muslim website in the country (after Single Muslim.com), and naturally we will cite numerous sources for news if it is of interest to our readers. I mean, for goodness sake, Tell Mama has publicly “showed off” the fact that 5Pillars report on their cases and findings! Furthermore, like every website in the world, we will do what is necessary to drive traffic to our website which does not break any laws or Islamic principles.
However, the articles in the Middle East Eye and 5Pillars were an opinion – my opinion – Tell Mama would do well to observe the difference between “news” and “opinion”.
7. The National Police Chiefs Council was only established in April 2015…so that begs the question – how long have Tell Mama been lobbying them to record Islamophobia?
8. One of the most important omissions in Tell Mama’s article is that they have not expressed regret at speaking at a Quilliam Foundation event, nor have they admitted that it was a mistake.
Why did Tell Mama not take the opportunity to address Quilliam’s well established alliances with Islamophobes and far-right extremists, which I highlighted in my article? Instead, they chose to address an issue which I did not infer – that they “work with” Quilliam. Yet, they refuse to address the point I did make – that Quilliam’s links to Islamophobes seriously questions their credibility, as does Tehmina Kazi’s collaboration with Baroness Cox of the Gatestone Institute, who called one noted US Islamophobe (Frank Gaffney) “one of my heroes”.
If they want to put a statement on record, why do they not answer the real issues I presented?
To conclude on the matter of Quilliam and Tell Mama, one of my sources who attended the US Ambassadors Eid Reception on July 22nd 2015 at Winfield House told me: “I saw for myself Fiyaz in deep conversation with Haras Rafiq of the Quilliam Foundation.”
“Fiyaz cannot suggest that speaking at a Quilliam event goes back two years, then defends his reasons for doing so a year after, and just a few months ago be seen talking animatedly with Rafiq,” the source added.
My source is willing to testify in a court of law if necessary, but for now the individual wishes to remain anonymous.
Tell Mama’s defensive statement only reinforces my argument that it is local communities that need to be put in the driving seat when it comes to challenging Islamophobia.
It is evidently clear from Tell Mama’s links and its defence of the role it plays, that it enjoys scant support in grassroots communities. I articulated a desire to see local communities take up their rightful place as the new recording system comes into operation. Police Crime Commissioners hold local constabularies accountable to the local population, and with police forces embarking on recording Islamophobia, it is absolutely right that local communities are the ones supported, through local third party reporting centres and via local crime strategies, to tackle the scourge of Islamophobia and its impact on local communities.
Hypocrisy, double standards and intimidation
In a final and desperate attempt to smear my name, Tell Mama concluded their defence by citing two tweets I posted in 2014, which I have explained and apologised for – as people do when they are wrong. But there is an irony in Tell Mama’s last sentence warning people “to make their decisions on the work of Dilly Hussain”.
On two separate occasions, Tell Mama has described me as an “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Ahmadi” bigot – an opinion which they’re entitled to. But on October 19th 2015, Fiyaz Mughal emailed me and to quote: “would be good to talk to you about whether there is synergy for you to do some articles for us in the future.” So, this confirms two things: a) I cannot be that bad of a journalist as alluded to by Tell Mama in their defence statement, and b) Fiyaz Mughal is more than willing to have an “”anti-Semitic” and “anti-Ahmadi” bigot write articles for them. How about that for consistency, eh?
Also, I would like to point out that 5Pillars editor, Roshan Muhammad Salih, received a number of phone calls on Thursday night from a number he did not recognise, and when he failed to answer, he was sent threatening text messages about legal proceedings.
We we are still not sure who sent those messages because they did not respond to requests to divulge their name but we can only assume that it was someone linked to Fiyaz.
And if that’s the case, then Tell Mama deserve a Blue Peter badge for their professionalism. I rest my case.