5Pillars asked to pay back £3K grant after LGBTQ ruling

5Pillars has been asked to pay back a £3,000 grant it received from an organisation set up to support independent journalism after the media regulator IMPRESS found that we had breached its discrimination code.

The request from the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) came after IMPRESS found 5Pillars guilty last month of inciting hatred against the LGBTQ community after deputy editor Dilly Hussain stated the normative Islamic position on same-sex relations in a now deleted video from 2019.

In its judgement IMPRESS considered that Mr Hussain’s use of the expression “crime against God” to describe same-sex relations “was more likely to encourage or legitimise real world threat against those in the LGBT community,” and “could evoke a strong reaction, which resonated in a way that could put a person or group in fear.”

The judgement came after the Mail on Sunday and the Quilliam Foundation had complained about 5Pillars’ journalism and “anonymous parties” had lodged complaints with the regulator.

Following the IMPRESS decision and another recent Daily Mail article PINF has written to 5Pillars asking for the £3K grant to be paid back.

The money was awarded to 5Pillars last year to assist our financial situation which had been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to assist our coverage of the pandemic itself.

PINF chief executive Jonathan Heawood told 5Pillars: “On 23 June 2020, I wrote to confirm the purposes and restrictions on the use of the grant. I stated that the grant would become repayable and PINF would be entitled to take all steps necessary to recover the grant if you were the subject of an adverse regulatory decision by IMPRESS.

“On 27 May 2021, an IMPRESS regulatory committee ruled that 5Pillars was responsible for a breach of the discrimination clause of the IMPRESS Standards Code. This constitutes an adverse regulatory decision and therefore I am writing to ask if you would be kind enough to repay the grant at the earliest opportunity.”

Responding to the request, 5Pillars editor Roshan Muhammed Salih said it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how Muslim organisations can partner with mainstream ones.

He said: “While we accept that we do have to pay back the grant because of the conditions that were attached to it, we feel that we are being punished for simply stating the normative Islamic position on same-sex relations and using the same language that the Quran uses.

“The flawed and unfair IMPRESS decision and the loss of money that we were fairly awarded to report on the COVID-19 situation has left a bitter taste in our mouths. It has eft us wondering if the price of working with mainstream organisations is to jettison our Islamic values. Muslims seem to be held to impossibly high standards some of which directly conflict with our faith. And we seem to be hounded if we have the temerity to stick by our religious and political principles. But our readers and viewers should know that we will continue to do this no matter what the price we pay.”

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