Maajid Nawaz’s Quilliam Foundation and the Mail on Sunday have launched an attack on 5Pillars over a journalism grant which we were awarded during the COVID-19 crisis.
Last month the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) awarded 5Pillars £3,000 to assist our work during the coronavirus pandemic which has adversely affected the finances of many journalistic outlets.
Quilliam subsequently complained to PINF, claiming that we were unfit to receive the grant given our coverage of issues such as Israel, interfaith and LGBT teaching.
Extremism Tsar Sara Khan has also sought a meeting with our regulator, Impress, to express her concerns over our output.
Khan’s Commission for Countering Extremism was quoted in an article in Private Eye a few days ago which also criticised the award of the PINF grant to 5Pillars.
Now the Mail on Sunday, apparently in collaboration with Quilliam, have published an article questioning the grant given our coverage of stories such as the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby and American journalist James Foley in 2013/14.
According to the article, Quilliam accuses us of being “a fake news site with a track record of peddling conspiracy theories about terrorist attacks.”
David Toube, Quilliam’s director of policy, told the Mail on Sunday: “It is unimpressive that the [PINF] panel did not conduct appropriate due diligence in advance of the award… to avoid this embarrassing mistake.”
PINF has said it encourages anyone with concerns about 5Pillars’ journalism to inform our regulator Impress “as a matter of urgency.” It has also told 5Pillars that we will have to repay the grant if Impress rules against us.
5Pillars has been regulated by Impress since April 2018 which means we have to adhere by a strict editorial code. Despite several complaints to Impress we have never had a ruling issued against us. Moreover, prior to the period we joined Impress we have never been subject to a successful lawsuit.
Both Quilliam and the Mail are deeply unpopular among many Muslims who regularly complain that they target Muslims. Both organisations deny the accusations and say they only target extremists, not Muslims generally.
Responding to the attacks, 5Pillars editor Roshan Muhammed Salih said it looks like the Quilliam Foundation has got “its mates at the right-wing Mail on Sunday to do a hit job on 5Pillars.”
He said: “Recently we received a small grant from an institution which was set up to support independent journalism. This was the first ever such grant given to an independent Muslim media outlet.
“We received that grant because we qualified for it as we adhere to the highest standards of journalism, including journalism which has regularly exposed the agenda and activities of the likes of Quilliam. We also qualified for the grant because we serve a marginalised community (Muslims) and are giving them a voice in an overall hostile environment.
“But the aim of Quilliam and the right-wing media and politicians is to deligitimise us. So it looks like they trawled through the thousands of articles on our site to find some that would outrage their audience, many of whom doubtless don’t like Muslims.
“We didn’t reply to the Mail’s request for comment simply because it is beneath us to engage with a newspaper which regularly targets our community. We do not engage with our enemies.
“Anyway, we have got the grant and are putting it to good use educating and empowering our community about things like COVID-19. And thanks to PINF for recognising the need to support independent media.
“Finally I would like to say that I consider it an honour to be attacked by the likes of Quilliam and the Mail on Sunday. This proves to me that 5Pillars is doing something right.”
5Pillars deputy editor Dilly Hussain added: “I don’t know of any organisation so despised and detested by Muslims as the Quilliam Foundation – irrespective of sect, theological or political persuasion; it’s a consensus. No mosque, Muslim charity or University Islamic Society has given them the time of day since their inception.”