A High Court judge has ruled that the “anti-Islamist” author Ed Husain defamed the media spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, Miqdaad Versi, on Twitter.
The decision by His Honour Justice Lewis this afternoon came after Husain tweeted in November 2020: “Pipe down, you pro-Hamas, pro-Iran, pro-gender discrimination, pro-blasphemy laws, pro-sectarian, anti-Western ‘Representative’ of an Islamist outfit.”
At some time thereafter, Husain deleted this tweet.
But Justice Lewis ruled: “I am satisfied that the natural and ordinary meaning conveyed by the Tweet was defamatory by the standards of the common law.
“Whilst stating that a person holds some of the views identified in the Tweet would not in itself be defamatory, the Tweet needs to be looked at in its entirety. Right thinking members of society generally would deplore those who express views in support of Hamas, as a militant Islamist group with known links to violence.
“It is also contrary to the common or shared values of our society to express extremist views that are so objectionable as to undermine the legitimacy of the claimant’s own participation in public debate.
“Attributing such views to the claimant would lower a person in the estimation of ‘right-thinking people generally.’ The imputation is one that would tend to have a substantially adverse effect on the way that people would treat the claimant, and their attitude towards him.”
Miqdaad Versi regularly voices concerns on Twitter over the misrepresentation of Muslims.
In suing Husain, he stated that the natural and ordinary meaning of the tweet was that: “the claimant is an Islamist who supports a violent, fundamentalist, separatist and repressive agenda aimed at imposing Islam on society by force. He is a terrorist sympathiser and a sectarian bigot who endorses hatred and violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims. He is intolerant of other religions and other strands of Islamic belief, including of mainstream Muslims, and supports the subjugation of women. His beliefs are incompatible with modern western democratic values, and he promotes enemies of the west.”
Mohamed Mahbub Husain, better known as Ed Husain, was one of the founding members of the now defunct and widely criticised “counter terrorism think tank,” the Quilliam Foundation. Husain is also a columnist for the conservative weekly publication, The Spectator, and has written for the Jewish Chronicle and worked for the Tony Blair Foundation.
When issued with proceedings, Husain’s solicitors claimed that they were no longer instructed to represent him as he now resided in the U.S. and did not submit to the jurisdiction of the English courts.
Rahman Lowe Solicitors, representing Versi, located Husain’s last known residence in the UK and then applied to the Court for permission to serve proceedings. It eventually accepted that the UK courts did have jurisdiction to hear the claim.
In defending the claim, Husain said the natural and ordinary meaning, read in context, was that: “The claimant advocates for the interests of an Islamist organisation, and has expressed views which are supportive of Hamas, Iran, gender discrimination, blasphemy laws, sectarianism, and which are anti-Western; and that such advocacy and views, as expressed by the claimant, are objectionable and undermine the legitimacy of the claimant’s own participation in public debate.”
He said that his words were partly an expression of opinion, and partly statements of fact.
In response to the ruling in his favour, Miqdaad Versi, said: “For too long, there are some who have smeared with impunity ordinary Muslims. This judgment puts an important stake in the ground. The judge has ruled that Ed Husain’s tweet about me is defamatory at common law. Ed’s claim that the tweet did not contain any defamatory meaning has therefore failed and I am delighted with the result”.
Zillur Rahman, of Rahman Lowe Solicitors, added: “This is a very important finding. At Rahman Lowe, we robustly pursue claims for our clients, and we worked extremely hard in tracing Mr Husain to ensure that he did not escape from justice. Words have consequences and Mr Husain must now face accountability for his.”
A further hearing to decide damages is upcoming with Versi seeking compensation of at least £25,000, as well as an injunction preventing republication of the words complained of, or similar defamatory words.