The argument between Newsnight and Policy Exchange is, quite rightly, carrying on. On Monday The Times published an apology to the MCB’s Dr Abdul Bari for claiming the East London Mosque was responsible for hate-literature Policy Exchange had unearthed.
That evening, writing on Newsnight’s blog, journalist Richard Watson said:
A professional document examiner found evidence that three of the receipts may have been fabricated. Later, we had concerns about the authenticity of another receipt â€“ from Al Muntada mosque in south west London â€“ so that makes a total of six questionable receipts.
Now it seems that there are doubts about the quality and reliability of the research in a seventh case â€“ East London Mosque.
This then is very similar to the scenario set out to us by the management at Tawhid mosque in Leyton, a case we did feature in our film. Policy Exchange has accepted its researcher bought books from the bookshop next door but argue it was justified in saying in the report that they came from the mosque because, they say, its researcher was led from the mosque into the bookshop to buy the books â€“ and that means the mosque approved the material. If this was the case, then why is this not spelled out in the report?
And by the way, we still havenâ€™t had an answer from Policy Exchange to that simple question: do they believe all of the receipts are genuine?
That last question is quite important. Is Policy Exchange guilty of throwing mud with the headline Hate literature peddled at Mosques without justification? Richard Watson wrote another blog post earlier laying out responses to various allegations made against specific Mosques. It’s pretty damning.
More importantly, Newsnight editor Peter Barron has commendably published their full account of how events unfolded. It’s worth reading in full.
There’s a few points to make here:
1) I find Policy Exchange’s stance quite amusing. They keep stating that attention should be focused on the fact that hate-literature is being sold, as if their research should not be questioned. They’ve accused mosques of peddling hate-literature; what if that no longer turns out to be true? What then? The receipts were one of their main pieces of evidence, no?
2) Who created the allegedly fake receipts?
3) Peter Barron was also quite right in dismissing Charles Moore’s view that they should have broadcast Policy Exchange’s findings and “allow the mosques to have their say”. To broadcast that without checking up all the inconsistencies would be like putting up a man on television and saying: So you say you don’t beat your wife. Is that true? That’s not journalism.
4) When the report came out in Nov, I wrote this article for CiF, pointing out that it was unclear what Policy Exchange actually advocated as a result of the report. At best, it was a necessary but misplaced blow. It’s author turned up in the comments and wrote a really bizarre reply, with tons of hot air but not actually addressing my points.
5) Barron also says:
Mr Moore accuses us of chasing a “small story” and says we chose, in effect, to side with extremists. Newsnight does not side with anyone. We simply took care to check the evidence Policy Exchange gave us to support their report’s very serious accusations. Our report acknowledged that extreme literature is available in some of the mosques. But Newsnight checked five receipts and in all five there were serious doubts about authenticity. In my book that’s a story.
Anyway, well done to Newsnight for sticking to its guns.
Cross-posted from Liberal Conspiracy
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Filed in: Current affairs,Media,Religion