Policy Exchange’s unanswered questions


by Sunny
19th December, 2007 at 10:46 pm    

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 – from Al Muntada mosque in south west London – 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 – 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 – 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 haven’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.

That is most definitely a story because we have far too many examples of newspapers making allegations (Sun, Telegraph)about Muslims that later turn out to be lies.

Anyway, well done to Newsnight for sticking to its guns.

Cross-posted from Liberal Conspiracy


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  1. a very public sociologist — on 19th December, 2007 at 11:16 pm  

    Indeed. PE have been slapped with a wet kipper and hung out to dry. The only thing is, they haven’t realised it yet, which will make things trickier for them in the long run. Not being anywhere near the Westminster bubble, I hadn’t heard of them before this. But now I have, they’ll go down in my book as the outfit that tried to fit the mosques up.

  2. douglas clark — on 20th December, 2007 at 4:58 am  

    Dean Godson really does need to explain a bit more about himself than he has so far. He got sacked by the Daily Telegraph, whose then editor said:

    “It’s OK to be pro-Israel, but not to be unbelievably pro-Likud Israel, it’s OK to be pro-American but not look as if you’re taking instructions from Washington.”

    That strikes me as a fairly serious allegation, one that Dean Godson ought to be aware of. Whilst many other members of his family have been closely involved in the darker side of ‘culture wars’, it would, perhaps be the position of an innocent man to argue that he was, quite simply, being tarred with the same brush.

    No, I don’t believe it either.

  3. Bartholomew — on 20th December, 2007 at 10:01 am  

    My favourite bit of bluster comes from Charles Moore:

    Mr Barron decided to try to prove himself right. In the private sector, there is something called “vanity publishing”, where people pay for their own works to be published.

    Mr Barron’s vanity broadcasting was, of course, at the expense of the licence-fee payer…

    I can think of a more salient example of “vanity publishing” – for example, when a man buys a newspaper so that his wife can inflict Likudnik screeds on its readers.

    I wonder what’s happening about that threat to pursue a libel action “relentlessly, to trial or capitulation”?

  4. swaraj — on 20th December, 2007 at 10:04 am  

    It’s about time PE got their come uppance. I used to think that they were finally a rightish think tank who were coming up with sensible ideas. Indeed some of their earlier stuff, under the guidance of Nicholas Boles who very good. Nick is a good guy, but theyve got soem researchers there who are just peddling stories and they have become quite aloof in recent times.

    Surely, the whole idea of a think-tank is that its finding are sound, justifiable and evidence-based?

  5. Metatone — on 21st December, 2007 at 8:27 pm  

    Actually, swaraj, the whole point of being a think-tank is that you can publish whatever you like and never have to say you’re sorry.

  6. marvin — on 22nd December, 2007 at 7:09 pm  

    Anthony Browne, director of Policy Exchange, has a letter published in the Guardian

    East London Mosque does not dispute that extremist literature is sold at the East London Mosque bookshop, which is based on ELM premises and provides till receipts bearing the name “ELM Book Centre”. The mosque chairman, Muhammad Abdul Bari, who is also secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, merely makes the surprising claim that he has no responsibility for what is sold in the bookshop.

    So, the point is, extremist literature IS being sold at the East London Mosque Bookshop. Abdul is the chairman of the East London mosque. This is certainly worth mentioning. If he’s the chairman, and in his position of responsibility, he should be involving himself in the bookshop.

    Certainly, if the Canterbury Catherdral bookshop was selling neo-nazi hate material, then we would expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to get involved and condemn and take moves to remove it, rather than saying “oh, nought to do with me!”

    And let’s hope the numpties responsible for (allegedly) faking receipts get the sack sharpish. Quite why they felt they had to do this is beyond me.

    Hate literature is widely available, as we all know. The internet is the real hub of it, though.

  7. marvin — on 22nd December, 2007 at 7:10 pm  

    Letter here

  8. Reffresh — on 23rd December, 2007 at 11:10 am  

    Marvin,

    Hate literature comes in many forms, the most pernicious of it unrecogniseable and the extremist Policy Exchange ‘report’ was just one.

    It was written for the weak-minded, and it served its purpose.

    Sack those numpties for faking receipts? Why?

    Why not expose them for what they want to achieve and why not put them under the microscope and find out who is really behind them?

  9. marvin — on 23rd December, 2007 at 11:55 am  

    “who is really behind them?” ooh a conspiracy! The Jews perhaps? :)

    NO, I doubt this is a conspiracy. You really don’t need to conspire to make it appear a hate literature is available methinks. I suspect a junior researcher trying to prove himself, surely anyone higher up would see the stupidity of faking evidence. One would hope.

    Will wait and see though

  10. Refresh — on 23rd December, 2007 at 11:04 pm  

    One would hope they all crawl back under that stone.

  11. Natty — on 28th December, 2007 at 5:53 pm  

    When I said that the research may have been dodgy, I was roundly attacked here by a few.

    Now those people should hang there heads in shame for relying on a dodgy right wing think tank and research which whipped up hysteria without foundation.

    So we see again how people are pushing an agenda.

    Way to go Newsnight for exposing these dirty tricks.

    For those of you who said literature couldn’t be placed by anyone you better wipe the egg from your faces :-)

  12. Refresh — on 28th December, 2007 at 6:25 pm  

    Natty, its better to attempt to persuade best you can, and if that fails let events confirm your views.

    Lets just say that PP has improved from its earlier days.

  13. Natty — on 28th December, 2007 at 6:29 pm  

    Refresh – It wasn’t the fault of PP and indeed there were people who accepted this may be the case. Just a few hardened Muslim bashers who like to think badly of that maligned community

    I am glad the right wing is being exposed for whipping up hatred as much as the extremists on the other side.

    It was similar in the approach to the war on Iraq and now that has also been exposed.

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