In yet another attack on Muslim activists the right-wing Daily Mail newspaper has taken aim at Lauren Booth and HHUGS.
The attack came a few days after the tabloid did similar hit-jobs on CAGE, MEND and MPACUK.
While the Lauren Booth story featured little more than tittle-tattle and gossip about her private life, the Mail accused HHUGS (Helping Households Under Great Stress) of being a “notorious group that funds terrorists’ families” which has “been allowed to campaign for donations at a leading university.”
The story said that “HHUGS supports the family of Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, an Islamic State fighter whose father Adel is a convicted terrorist linked to Osama Bin Laden.”
It added: “The group has published articles in support of terrorist Munir Farooqi, a former Taliban fighter given four life sentences in 2011 for trying to recruit jihadi fighters. It also once published an article on its website which claimed there was ‘no evidence’ for Bin Laden’s involvement in 9/11.”
In response the HHUGS Management Board said it was disappointed that the Daily Mail had sought to create a sensational story over administrative errors despite clarifications being provided to reporters.
It said “such irresponsible reporting could have an adverse risk on the reputation of the charity and not only impact our donor support but, ultimately, cause further distress to the hundreds of innocent women and children who depend on our support.”
The Management Board’s statement continued: “HHUGS does not in any way support or condone any form of terrorism. HHUGS exists solely to provide help and support to the families of persons who have been detained by the authorities in relation to anti-terror legislation – one notable example being the family of Shaker Aamer whose case the Daily Mail highlighted and campaigned for.
“HHUGS has been supporting Shaker’s family for over a decade. At HHUGS we try to fill the hole in their lives by providing the emotional, practical and financial support they need to continue life. Our support has included regular counselling sessions to help his wife Zinneera deal with the significant impact of her husband’s detention on her mental health.
“We step in to provide monthly shopping vouchers, educational support and tuition fees for the children . We have provided relief and solace in the form of coffee mornings, Iftars and Eid parties, and recreational activities for the children.
“While HHUGS does not support convicted prisoners, their families are amongst our beneficiaries. In this respect, the work of HHUGS is no different from that of several other charities such as Barnados, Action for Prisoners Families, and FAST who recognise that innocent children and vulnerable parents should not be stigmatised with collective guilt. We oppose the Daily Mail’s efforts to victimise and criminalise innocent children.
“Due to beneficiary confidentiality we are not at liberty to disclose full details of support to any beneficiary however we can confirm that HHUGS has never provided any support to Abdul-Majed Abdul Bary. Our support to his family does not stem from his activities but on account of the lengthy detention of his father Adel Bary.
“The postcard in relation to Adel Bary was produced in 2010 at a time when Mr Bary was detained without charge – and notably not at a time when Mr Abdul Majed Abdul Bary was in Syria! – and has not since been reprinted. As we had clarified to the Daily Mail in writing prior to publication, the postcards should not have been utilised at the stall due to their outdated information; that this was an oversight on our part is underlined by the fact that even the contact address for HHUGS printed on the postcard has not been used for several years.
“HHUGS attends events after giving full consideration to benefits to the charity in terms of promoting its work, recruiting volunteers or fundraising and weighing those against potential risks. Our attendance at any event should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the views of its speakers. With respect to the event in question, neither did HHUGS remotely participate in organising the event, ‘campaign’ at the event or distribute materials to the audience as the Daily Mail claims.
“With respect to the article about Munir Farooqi that also expressed certain views about Osama Bin Laden (there was only one article), this was not written by HHUGS but reposted from another website by the previous management. The views expressed in the article are not within our remit and should not have been posted on the website. We had removed the article from our website prior to the Daily Mail contacting us in relation to it.