Is Martin Bright libelling Mehdi Hasan?


by Sunny
28th July, 2009 at 4:37 am    

I’ve always liked Martin Bright’s journalism and as a person, but his blog-post in response to all these smears is very, very odd.

For a start, Martin just quotes the offending passages without even pointing out that Hasan is quoting from the Koran. Anyone who doesn’t visit HP and only looks at that blog post doesn’t even get basic context.

Secondly, I can understand the writers at HP not bothering to call up Hasan for his side of the story – they’re not journalists and have an agenda to push. Martin is an experienced journalist and one would at least expect him to offer both sides of the story. No?

Now this is where it gets legally dangerous. Martin files the story under: ‘Islamism , Islamist , Islamists and Radical Islam’. That implies he believes Hasan is an Islamist – something even the smear merchants at HP are not claiming. Perhaps Martin Bright could himself confirm whether he thinks those views should mark Hasan as an Islamist?

And most weirdly, he says Hasan is a “self-styled” Senior Editor. Huh? I know he left the NS under inauspicious circumstances but that stinks of sour grapes.

I say all this also because I know of one prominent think-tanker who sent around an email calling Hasan a “jihadist” – a whole new level of stupidity. Allegations like these can go around the internet like a shot and become the truth if enough people repeat it. And yet only last week Martin was writing about ‘The Importance of Being Libelled‘ to protect his own reputation. So isn’t this a bit hypocritical?


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  1. RobertD — on 28th July, 2009 at 6:44 am  

    As one who initially saw only the the edited highlights and not the full story I certainly found myself taking a very negative attitude to Hasan. A view that did not go away entirely on reading the whole piece, but one that was definitely softened by getting the fuller context. There does seem to have been a serious slip in blog and journalist standards in the presentation of this story.

  2. Halima — on 28th July, 2009 at 7:33 am  

    The word witch-hunt came to my mind.

  3. Mr Eugenides — on 28th July, 2009 at 7:35 am  

    Can you libel someone by your choice of tags under a blog post? Good luck proving that, Sunny…

  4. Random Guy — on 28th July, 2009 at 7:48 am  

    RobertD, one could care less what your attitude to Mr. Hasan is. Honestly, what does it matter in the light of the wider issue here?

    This whole affair has been damning for the likes of Harry’s Place and now, Bright. The true expose has already occurred – in a way that must make the initiators of this wish it had never happened.

  5. Anon — on 28th July, 2009 at 7:59 am  

    “… isn’t this a bit hypocritical?”

    Yes, just a bit. But that’s Martin Bright for you. He reserves the right to attack his opponents in any way he sees fit, without any concern for fairness or accuracy, but when he’s subjected to some harsh polemic in return he threatens his critics with legal action. What a plonker.

  6. Ravi Naik — on 28th July, 2009 at 8:12 am  

    For a start, Martin just quotes the offending passages without even pointing out that Hasan is quoting from the Koran.

    The quote is very clear to what parts he is quoting from the Quran.

    Martin files the story under: ‘Islamism , Islamist , Islamists and Radical Islam’. That implies he believes Hasan is an Islamist

    There is no clear definition of the term “Islamist”, but one of the themes is considering non-Muslims, or those that do not follow the teachings of Islam, as non-virtuous and animal like. Of course, he is entitled to think that way, but he (and you) cannot expect that reasonable people will not think he is a fundamentalist. He brought this on himself.

  7. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:17 am  

    Surprisingly, well, surprisingly to me at least, Martin Bright does not get an easy ride of it in his own comments column.

    Can I just add that I’d quite like to see the whole video, not a transcript. Is it available anywhere?

  8. Rumbold — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:21 am  

    Sorry Sunny, but this is pretty weak. Whether one agrees with Martin Bright or not, the idea that labelling Medhi Hasan an Islamist is libelllous is just silly. As Ravi points out, it is impossible to define ‘Islamist’ anyway. Sometimes it is used in a critical sense, to mean an anti-Muslim political stance, other times it is used in a neutral way to mean a person or party that brings religion into politics (thus the Turkish government is often described as mildly Islamist).

  9. Adnan — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:41 am  

    Rumbold @8 – that’s an interesting comment, as IMO on PP it appears to be used in a strongly negative sense. Even Ravi’s post gives a flavour of that: “There is no clear definition of the term “Islamist”, but one of the themes is considering non-Muslims, or those that do not follow the teachings of Islam, as non-virtuous and animal like.”

    There’s a bit of difference between “non-virtuous” and “animal like”.

    So calling Hasan an Islamist is making a pretty strong statement about him.

  10. Rumbold — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:45 am  

    Adnan:

    I and others on here do tend to use it in a negative sense, but plenty of others (such as the Economist) don’t. So we would have to know more about how Martin Bright uses it. And even then, it could hardly be called libellous, as Martin Bright is not suggesting that Mehdi Hasan is doing anything illegal.

  11. Adnan — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:54 am  

    If it’s filed with a “Radical Islam” tag does not imply it’s being seen as a negative thing ?

  12. getalife — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:58 am  

    Rumbold – you seem to take great offense to the label ‘Kafir’ but defend ‘Islamist’ in certain contexts. According to your own logic, it is an offensive label and so should not be used. The difference is most Muslims quoting the Koran in a religious gathering will use the word Kafir, unaware of it’s offensive nature in modern usage. Are you saying that the label of Islamist is neutral and not offensive on Bright’s blog? If so, why is he speechless?

  13. Rumbold — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:58 am  

    Adnan:

    Well, perhaps he should change his tags. I would split ‘Islmaist’ and ‘Radical Islam’ up.

  14. Ravi Naik — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:09 am  

    There’s a bit of difference between “non-virtuous” and “animal like”.

    Mehdi Hasan affirmed – and quoted the Quran – that those who do not follow the teachings of Islam are like cattle, non-intelligent, and have lifestyle like animals.

    I mean, if he is not saying that, what am I missing?

    I do not care about his use of kuffir (it is in the Koran – and should only be offensive when addressed to Muslims) or the fact that he is less of a dick than HuT. But I do think that people who defend this man are placing the bar pretty low when it comes to Muslims – there is no way I would defend a Christian (being one) that would say something like that even if he quoted the Bible, and I get the feeling our Sikh regulars would never defend a Sikh who would compare non-Sikhs to cattle or insinuate that their lifestyle are animal-like because they are not adherents of Sikhism.

    The fact is that we live in a multicultural world, and this means that public figures need to learn how to use neutral and non-polarising language. Mehdi Hasan failed miserably on that account.

  15. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:15 am  

    I’d have thought that, if the word is used simply as a descriptor, there ought to be no problem with it. It is the nature of groups to define themselves as special and everyone else as something ‘other’. Having a word for that delimitation is perhaps even quite useful.

    However, a word spoken in an aggressive way, and linked to other derogatory words can, and does change it’s meaning.

    It is rather hard to take that it’s synonym nowadays seems to be cattle.

  16. Adnan — on 28th July, 2009 at 10:38 am  

    Ravi,

    I’m going to look a pedant, but here goes :)

    When I used “There’s a bit of difference between “non-virtuous” and “animal like”.”, I was responding to Rumbold on the connotations of the term “Islamist” as used in PP, rather than commenting on the Hasan affair. Calling somebody non-virtuous (pompous?) is not as bad as being called non-virtuous and animal-like (underlying contempt?) to boot. So, Hasan should carefully choose the words he uses.

    Anyway, all this PP / HP sniping and the Bright libel article are illustrations of how thin-skinned former colleagues on the Left turned enemies have become nowadays.

  17. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2009 at 11:01 am  

    With that unswerving certainty that if you are digging a hole for yourself you should ‘keep digging’, I see HP now have a post up called “Pickled Polibollocks”.

    You should go see. You might even be namechecked!

  18. Shuggy — on 28th July, 2009 at 11:41 am  

    For a start, Martin just quotes the offending passages without even pointing out that Hasan is quoting from the Koran.

    In your original post you say something similar:

    “It looks obvious his comments are being taken out of context. Hasan is specifically relating what the Koran says. There’s a matter of what he believes in himself, and another matter of how he interprets the religious allegories.”

    I don’t particularly want to familiarise myself with all the details of this dispute because I don’t care who edits the New Statesman or about your on-going argument with HP but I don’t understand why you think pointing out that he is quoting the Koran changes the context in any way? It would if he had indicated in some way that there is some kind of distance between what the text says and what he thinks. But neither the clips nor any of the evidence you’ve provided give us any reason to think this. Therefore it certainly does not seem obvious that his remarks have been taken out of context. Quite the opposite from what I can see.

    P.S. The ‘cattle’ reference shouldn’t really be referred to as an ‘allegory’ – it’s a metaphor. I’m not sure allowing for ‘interpretation’ gives many hiding places Since when was the epithet ‘cattle’ used in a positive way?

  19. Ganpat Ram — on 28th July, 2009 at 11:42 am  

    What the speech shows is that Hasan identifies himself in politics totally with a religion, Islam.

    Why is the British self-styled Left allying itself so enthusiastically with such raging devotees of religious politics – one who, whatever else, dehumanises anyone who dares to question an Arab book?

    Would that so-called Left be equally enthusiastic in its support of HINDU nationalism as it clearly is of Islamist nationalism?

    As for all this sneering at “Neocons”. What force in the world today is more conservative than Islam?

    In fact, the dreaded Neocons at least believe in full freedom for believers and non-believers. So they are MORE progressive than the Oldcons of Islam.

  20. Rumbold — on 28th July, 2009 at 12:05 pm  

    Getalife:

    I don’t take ‘”great offence” at the use of ‘kafir’, I just don’t think it should be used. That is all. I don’t want anyone sacked, or flayed alive.

  21. Ganpat Ram — on 28th July, 2009 at 12:27 pm  

    I take it Sunny Hundal would be perfectly happy to have Skihs referred to as “cattle”, provided this was read out of some “holy” book?

  22. Ganpat Ram — on 28th July, 2009 at 12:29 pm  

    Would Sunny Hundal be happy for a Hindu editor of the New Statesman to go unquestioned or to stay in place after referring to Muslims as “cattle”?

    Just curious.

  23. Sunny — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:04 pm  

    Sometimes it is used in a critical sense, to mean an anti-Muslim political stance, other times it is used in a neutral way to mean a person or party that brings religion into politics

    Yes but this is how reputations and careers are destroyed. As Martin Bright himself was objecting to only a week ago.

    I take it Sunny Hundal would be perfectly happy to have Skihs referred to as “cattle”, provided this was read out of some “holy” book?

    You people are boring me. I’ve already explained my stance on previous threads. This is specifically about smearing people. Get with the programme.

  24. soru — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:26 pm  

    If you think reporting his words in public will ‘destroy his career’, then why are you supporting him?

    Particularly as part of an aggressive, death-threat-hurling crowd that _really_ make it look like he has more to hide than appears to be the case?

  25. The Common Humanist — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:40 pm  

    I don’t think the HP piece was a smear job – badly put together yes and should have used more audio but the three items from HP put together don’t look good for Mr Mehdi. I also note the full audio is available in partt one – hardly the move of a selective hitpiece that had something to hide.

    Whilst am more with Brownie in that I think there is clarification to be had and I also note that there was much to like in the speech with regards to muslim attitudes to education etc and I note that Mr Mehdi does alot of sterling work in the Shia Community in London, it would clearly help matter if he could clarify matters??

  26. The Common Humanist — on 28th July, 2009 at 1:44 pm  

    Apologies for the shocking spelling and construction of those two paras above. Yikes.

  27. Shatterface — on 28th July, 2009 at 2:16 pm  

    If this were a Christian who had described homosexuals as an ‘abomination’ because, hey, that’s what the Bible calls them, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    The fact that the holy book in question is offensive doesn’t mean that those who quote it – approvingly – aren’t also being offensive.

    ‘God says…’ is not a defense.

  28. Ganpat Ram — on 28th July, 2009 at 2:19 pm  

    SUNNY:

    You say:

    “You people are boring me. I’ve already explained my stance on previous threads. This is specifically about smearing people. Get with the programme.”

    All I did was ask how you would like it if someone had called Sikhs “cattle”, reading out of some “holy” book. This is a very valid question in the context of what Mehdi Hasan has done. It is not a “smear” to raise the question.

    Could you please be a bit more straighforward in your replies?

    Many thanks.

  29. Raymond Terrific — on 28th July, 2009 at 3:20 pm  

    Well done Harry’s Palce

    Another odious creep goes onto the list.

  30. Boyo — on 28th July, 2009 at 5:51 pm  

    It is a smear, but also it’s true. A true smear then.

    HP plainly had evil motives, yet their allegations are accurate.

    In the first instance I sympathised somewhat with Mehdi. On reflection though, really I cannot because what he says is quite appalling – and influential. If this is what passes for moderation and progression, then God help us all.

    Sunny attacks the smear, yet ignores the content. In doing so he makes himself look somewhat foolish.

  31. Bob — on 28th July, 2009 at 6:00 pm  

    Er, the previous post about Hasan on this very blog http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5305 is tagged… “Islamists”. Does that mean that Sunny himself is libelling him?

  32. Mehdi Hasan — on 28th July, 2009 at 8:06 pm  
  33. Edna Welthorpe — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:07 pm  

    In #19, Ganpat Ram “just get it,” as a shreiking Amerikan feminist would howl.

    The self-hating white-masochist Left loves Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular because:

    -1- They are ignorant brown people who deserve our pity and compassion; to a certain extent their ignorance and backwardness [like that of the poor suffering Taigs of the Occupied Six Counties] can be blamed on US – that is to say, on British policy so we can enjoy the breast-beating masochistic pleasure of squealing our apologies …

    -2- They do exciting things like hijacking planes and blowing themselves, and other people, to bits

    -3- Under the right circumstances, Muslims in Britain can be bamboozled into voting for someone like George Galloway, who does exciting things like breaking the blockade* into Gaza and snarling defiance at bovine American Senators.

    * IRONY ALERT
    This is intended as a figure of speech

  34. Edna Welthorpe — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:21 pm  

    In #27 Shatterface addresses the issue of Christianity and homosexuality.

    This complicated issue has spawned books, nameless articles and even secessionist churches and joyous shabby pseudo-churches [i.e. congregations of Christian Lesbians in places like Oregon and British Columbia]

    It’s a hot Free Speech versus Insulting Speech issue in Canada – see the Ezra Levant and Steyn Online blogs – and at least one Canadian clergyman was ordered by the Human Rights Commissars to cease and desist saying that bloke-on-bloke hanky-panky is an absolute and total no-no according to:
    Romans 1:26 1 Corinthians 6:9 Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 [quoting from rough notes here, with no Sacred Text to hand]

    Any PP readers care to add any comments?

  35. Edna Welthorpe — on 28th July, 2009 at 9:23 pm  

    ERRATUM

    In #19 Ganpat Ram “JUST DOESN’T GET IT!”

  36. damon — on 29th July, 2009 at 1:44 am  

    Mehdi Hasan certainly isn’t an Islamist (as far as I can tell), but was that really the main charge?
    I find his words that led to this situation a little alarming (and disappointing), but that’s only because I’m secular and I would prefer that kind of passion for religion to be declining, not going from strength to strengh.

    I don’t mind the Islamic words for ‘unbeliever’ and I find it’s not right to equate them with horrible racist insulting words.
    Maybe people who believe in UFO’s have a word for those people who don’t.
    So what if they did? Who cares?

    Melanie Phillips will love this. She’ll probably cite it as an example of ”the islamifaction of Britain”.

    ie: the once proud and socialist (or whatever) New Statesman, succumbing to the influence of a different ideology.

    What would the reaction have been if Sadiq Khan MP had said the things that Mehdi Hasan said?
    It would be all over the media I reckon.

    I think too much was made about this over on Harry’s Place.

  37. Bob — on 29th July, 2009 at 1:29 pm  

    I agree with Damon #13 in that, for me, the main charge was never that Hasan is an Islamist. Some Harryists thought that was the main charge against him, but I think there are worse indictments, e.g. that he has acted as an apologist for the Iranian regime, a regime which oppresses Muslims; that he flirts with far right conspiracy theory in his regular citation of wingnut Michael Scheuer, who has said that the best thing that could happen to America is being bombed by Al-Qaeda; and that he has blamed racism on its victims in saying that Israel (“through its self-proclaimed role as the leader and home of world Jewry” no less) “causes” antisemitism, which is like saying Muslim immigrants “cause” anti-Muslim racism.

    In more detail here:
    http://brockley.blogspot.com/2009/07/mehdi-hasan-continued.html

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