5Pillars editors respond to IMPRESS adjudication on discrimination code

This is a statement by 5Pillars editor Roshan Muhammed Salih and 5Pillars deputy editor Dilly Hussain on the recent IMPRESS adjudication which found 5Pillars in breach of its discrimination code.

We are extremely disappointed at the IMPRESS judgement which we consider unfair, flawed and an attack on the right of Muslims to express themselves freely within the law of this country.

In a nutshell, IMPRESS has found 5Pillars guilty of inciting hatred against the LGBT community when we strongly feel we did nothing of the sort.

All deputy editor Dilly Hussain did in the now deleted video from 2019 is clearly state the normative Islamic position on same-sex relations, while making clear that we live in a secular society in the UK where communities should not attempt to impose their values on each other.

The Quran itself is clear and unequivocal on the issue of same-sex relationships and sodomy and, as a Muslim website with a majority Muslim readership, we feel that we should be able to use language that our own Holy Book uses.

In its judgement IMPRESS considered that the expressions “crime, criminality and sinfulness” were not synonymous terms.

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Instead the regulatory committee “considered that crime has a clear and persuasive meaning to audiences and to associate this with the LGBT community was more likely to encourage or legitimise real world threat against those in the LGBT community, as opposed to mere association with ‘sin’ or ‘sinfulness’. The Committee noted that the emphasis of tone and repetition used by the speaker in the video was pointed and could evoke a strong reaction, which resonated in a way that could put a person or group in fear.”

IMPRESS also ruled that Dilly Hussain failed to contextualise his words in his 5 minute speech outside Prophet Lut’s (as) cave in Jordan to make it clear he was speaking from a uniquely Abrahamic/Islamic perspective.

In response, we would like to make it clear that Mr Hussain repeatedly contextualised his position in the video but IMPRESS seems to have dismissed this. We also asserted that “crime against God” would be understood as “a sin” by any reasonable viewer as the very word “God” is the contextualisation. It is possible that others may construe it another way but this would be a purely subjective judgement.

We also asked IMPRESS to provide evidence of how anything Mr Hussain said would have provoked “fear” or represented a “real world threat” to the LGBT community. No such evidence was provided to us.

In its own guidance IMPRESS says that “Language that qualifies as hate speech is that which is intended to, or is likely to, provoke hatred or to put a person or group in fear. The disputed words, therefore, must be more than provocative, offensive, hurtful or objectionable: this provision is about hate speech, not speech that merely hurts feelings. It includes, but is not limited to, speech that is likely to cause others to commit acts of violence against members of the group or discriminate against them (for example, by refusing to serve them in a shop). However, the ‘threat’ that certain groups will ‘burn in hell’ should not be seen as constituting hate speech: threats must be of adverse consequences in this life, not an after-life.”

This guidance sets a very high bar for what constitutes hate speech but in the judgement against us IMPRESS seems to have disregarded its own guidelines and has set a very low bar. We repeat: there is simply no evidence that anything Dilly Hussain said could have caused others to commit acts of violence against members of the LGBT community or have any adverse consequences in this life.

In conclusion, we would like to make the following points:

This ruling by IMPRESS has shocked and dismayed us and has effectively left us with two options – to leave IMPRESS on a matter of principle or to comply with IMPRESS’s judgement under protest.

After doing extensive shura with Islamic scholars and activists around the country we have chosen the latter option because we are committed to the principle of having an impartial complaints system in place and an independent regulator to adjudicate on controversies.

We are also pleased to note that out of 16 articles that were recently complained about only one was considered to be a breach.

That said, we are nevertheless very concerned that a regulator run by secular non-Muslims has delved into an area of Islamic theology and Quranic exegesis where we feel it has absolutely no business or authority.

Finally, we have the following message to our readers and supporters. First and foremost we run this website according to the boundaries set by Allah SWT and His Beloved Prophet (pbuh). These are our red lines and we will never betray them.

Roshan Muhammed Salih and Dilly Hussain.

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