Islam Channel has accused The Sunday Times and the controversial journalist Andrew Gilligan of launching a witch hunt against the channel and its founder Mohamed Ali Harrath.
This weekend the newspaper published a story by Gilligan – who is renowned within the Muslim community for his attacks on Muslim figures and organisations – which accused Islam Channel of being funded by Saudi Arabia and featuring extremist content.
The Sunday Times story said: “The channel has always refused to identify its funders. However, public documents show that £2m was invested in 2007 by Alshiddi International, the overseas arm of Al-Shiddi Group, which has links to the Saudi royal family.
“The channel’s registered address until last year, 14 Bonhill Street in the City of London, was for many years the British office of Alshiddi International. Sulaiman al-Shiddi, the group’s president, gives as his UK address the home of Mohamed Ali Harrath, owner of Islam Channel. Alshiddi International is a prominent Saudi vehicle for channelling funds into Europe.”
But a statement posted on Islam Channel’s website said the article was “full of inaccuracies” and was an attempt “to smear the channel as promoting a hardline version of Islam.”
The statement read: “Worse still it goes further in an attempt to link the channel and its owner to the Saudi Royal family and the recent shocking killing of respected journalist – Jamal Khashoggi. It is important to note that as a media organisation we feel particularly strongly about the need to protect the wellbeing and freedom of speech of journalists wherever they practice their craft and as such we strongly condemn the killing of Jamal Khosgoggi and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
“We should also like to confirm that neither the Islam Channel or its founder and CEO – Mohamed Ali Harrath, have any connections to the Saudi Royal Family; the Saudi State or any Saudi state organisations. The Islam Channel can confirm that it has on no occasion received funding from any Saudi government or non government organisation…
“He (Gilligan) lists just a handful of the many hundreds of guests and/or presenters which feature on the channel’s daily schedules and publishes statements mostly taken out of context in order to discredit them and by association, the Islam Channel…
“The so called report by the Sunday Times should therefore be regarded as fake news and merely yet another excuse to malign what by the article’s own definition is the premier Muslim TV Channel in the UK.”