The Times newspaper has apologised and paid damages to an Imam who questioned the Conservative leadership candidates about Islamophobia during a high-profile BBC debate in June.
Imam Abdullah Patel, who appeared on Our Next Prime Minister on June 18, was selected to ask Boris Johnson and four other Tory leadership hopefuls whether they agreed that Islamophobic rhetoric had real-life consequences.
Following the debate, in a front-page story headlined “Tory candidates threaten BBC debate boycott” by its Chief Investigative Reporter, Andrew Norfolk and Political Correspondent, Henry Zeffman, The Times reported that Imam Patel had blamed Israel for the “Islamist” murder of a British police officer.
The newspaper also claimed that a school that he ran was warned by Ofsted for segregating parents.
In addition, most of page 8 of the paper was devoted to an article headlined “Israel is the real problem, said Imam in BBC row” under the same by-line as the front page story.
This repeated and expanded on these claims, and added further allegations that he was headteacher of two schools which were subject to emergency Ofsted safeguarding inspections, one of which imposed a segregation policy which ran “counter to British democratic principles;” and that he taught at a seminary which was associated with a website which The Times had “revealed” to be promoting extreme views.
Yet each of these published allegations about the imam was untrue and The Times published the following correction last week.
Commenting on his victory, Imam Patel said: “All praise be to God. It’s a great relief for me and my loved ones to finally put this episode to an end. We owe thanks to my legal representatives and well wishers who have ensured that shoddy sensationalist journalism will be challenged and defeated. For my part, I will continue holding anyone, including politicians to task for stoking the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment”.
Zillur Rahman, of Rahman Lowe Solicitors, added: “This case highlights the shocking level of journalism to which the Muslim community are often subject to, even in newspapers such as The Times. I am glad Imam Patel has been vindicated.
“The question that Imam Patel asked in the BBC leadership debate about whether words have consequences referenced Boris Johnson’s past comments about Muslim women who wear the veil looking like ‘letterboxes.’ Yet it will be seen, in the case of Mr Johnson, whether such words have any consequences as he seeks re-election as Prime Minister of our country.”