Jahangir Mohammed: Andrew Gilligan’s “sexed up” story about me

Andrew Gilligan

About the author

jahangir 2
Jahangir Mohammed is the director of the Centre of Muslim Affairs.


Jahangir Mohammed from the Centre of Muslim Affairs responds to accusations by the notorious Telegraph journalist Andrew Gilligan that he is part of an organised campaign to undermine Britain’s fight against terrorism. 

Andrew Gilligan, the London Editor of The Telegraph, achieved notoriety whilst working at the BBC in 2003 when he produced a report on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in which he alleged a British government briefing paper on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction had been “sexed up.”

The response by the British State to that report likely led to Gilligan’s resignation from the BBC. And during the Hutton Inquiry, Lord Hutton questioned the reliability of Gilligan’s evidence.

These days Gilligan spends his time “sexing up” stories about Britain’s Muslim communities. I recently became the latest victim of a Gilligan “sexed up” non-story – I am referred to a number of times in an article in The Sunday Telegraph and online on the 30th January 2016 (with a photograph of myself speaking at a CAGE event).

To say that there has been a bit of a media frenzy against CAGE in the month of January would be an understatement – they have had no fewer than 28 stories attacking them in the papers.

The headline of the article summed up the narrative in it: “Organised Campaign to hobble anti-terror fight”. It focussed on an event organised by Waltham Forest Council of Mosques on the PREVENT policy at which I was one of a number of speakers. The argument being made was that “extremist” organisations were behind the campaign to undermine the government’s PREVENT policy. To fit the worldview of Gilligan and The Telegraph of a nefarious alliance between the Left and “Islamic extremists”, links had to be found to both. And what better way than to find any link to CAGE?

Without that, the whole article becomes a bit of a non-story. So my relationship with CAGE had to be “sexed up”. I was referred to as a “CAGE activist”, a term that has no meaning. Had Gilligan been interested in genuinely establishing my relationship with CAGE he could have contacted me and asked, but no one did. Such niceties as “press standards” are meaningless when it appears your intention is to smear someone and “sex up” stories.

No quote from myself appeared in the article to balance his labelling and accusations.

My relationship with CAGE

I am not a member of CAGE in any capacity. My relationship with CAGE is not a secret and is openly stated in the CAGE “External Review of the Emwazi Affair” which mentions three reports my business has prepared for CAGE as external advisers/consultants.

Gilligan refers to these reports and my speaking appearances with CAGE as evidence of being a “CAGE activist”. Two of those reports are public: “PREVENT a cradle to Grave Police State” and “External Review of the Emwazi Affair,” and are on the CAGE website. An earlier organisational review of CAGE is internal.

cageThe Emwazi report that I did has been described in the media as “scathing” about CAGE’s handling of the Emwazi affair. Some CAGE activist then!

CAGE are one of my many business clients and I have acted as a consultant/adviser to them. I have spoken at their events, and given interviews in my capacity as a consultant on reports I have written for them, or areas of my expertise in an independent capacity.

This is normal practice for consultants and I have done this for many clients. I have also been appearing independently for decades (long before the existence of CAGE) on many platforms (Muslim and non-Muslim), so does that make me an activist for all the organisers?

Socialist Worker article

To further bolster his claim, Gilligan finds an article I have alleged to have authored around the time of the publication of the “Cradle to Grave” report in the name of CAGE in The Socialist Worker. It is the first time I became aware of the existence of this article – I did not write such an article and not for CAGE.

I was interviewed at length by a journalist for the paper about the PREVENT report. Some of this interview has appeared in an article. It does not distinguish between my words (in any quotation marks) and those of the journalist. Without this I cannot confirm I have said anything in the article, although I do vaguely recall questioning the whole logic of blaming the entire Muslim community for the radicalisation of Michael Adebelajo and arguing it is was more plausible to look at all those who had contact with him.

Jahangir 1I have asked the paper to remove that article as it is inaccurate and they have done so.

Gilligan takes quotes out of context even in that article (which is not mine), makes his own comment and attributes it to me to make this astonishing claim. “Mr Mohammed wrote an article in the Socialist Worker for CAGE, blaming the security services for the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby and saying that ‘if anyone radicalised [the killer Michael Adebolajo], it was them.’”

I have been accused of blaming the security services for the murder of Lee Rigby. Nowhere does the Socialist worker article make such a claim. It is a false statement.

I have complained to the Telegraph for making inaccurate and misleading comments using their internal procedure. They have now altered the comment about murder to say “radicalisation.” They appear to have altered the headline too. However, the article still has a quote from an article which was not mine. Which means comments are still attributed to me when the article has been withdrawn.

The article still refers to me as a “CAGE activist “on the basis of my reports for CAGE and subsequent talks and comments in the media on them. They have not apologised to me about the murder statement which will have been read by my many people I work with or have contact with including police officers.

Gilligan’s skewed logic

Using Gilligan’s own logic and publicly available commentary about him, one could argue that Gilligan has been an activist for Boris Johnson as candidate for Mayor, for which some have argued he was nicely rewarded with the Cycling Commissioner job. He has also appeared in a fortnightly programme on Iran’s Press TV, many more appearances than mine at CAGE. On that basis he could be called a former activist for the Islamic Republic of Iran or Press TV.

Activism is defined as working to make social and political change/ progress, which is usually a good thing. One can be a gay rights, animal rights, womens’ rights, and human rights activist and so on. Being a Muslim activist however is seen as a sinister extremist activity amongst some in a White British Establishment who seem to be unable to come to terms with younger Muslim citizens who are articulate enough to challenge their language, politics, and policies.

Joining dots and using them in reaching a judgment about someone is easy; anyone can do it. It is the job of journalists and politicians (when making /discussing policy) to distinguish between fact and fiction and not perpetuate prejudice and stereotypes. The sad reality in Britain today is that this type of trial by labelling and implication, using out of context comments, and relationships presented as evidence, is a day to day reality for the Muslim community.

PREVENT is part of the government's counter terror strategy
PREVENT is part of the government’s counter terror strategy

The PREVENT policy has given everyone in society, and critically public servants, a license to do exactly what some journalists and the media do. It is a recipe for wholesale victimisation and discrimination; anyone who wants to understand this modern day descent into Macarthyism should watch this insightful programme.

There was no organised effort to hobble an anti-terror programme in Waltham Forest – the organisation of the event had nothing to do with CAGE and I was not speaking for them. This was a local response (one of many taking place up and down the country) to the impact of PREVENT on a community that is suffering the consequences of the policy.

The Muslim community has a right to discuss its issues with anyone they choose. We will see many more initiatives such as PreventWatch, just as the Black community saw groups like the Newham Monitoring Project and others emerging in wake of racist attacks and policing against them.

I have always spoken for communities, racial/religious justice and against discrimination on platforms I chose to do so, but independently, and will continue to do so. I will continue with my complaint against The Telegraph and I encourage the Muslim community and others to make sure they do make complaints and challenge the media when they see inaccurate and misleading reports.

To not do so is an abdication of responsibility because the media will not change its ways if you don’t.

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