ALERT UPDATE: Support Journalist Faisal Bodi

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Update on campaign.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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4th March 2002

ALERT UPDATE: Support Journalist Faisal Bodi

Further to our previous alerts, IHRC has received a variety of letter from campaigners. Many campaigners have asked for Mr. Bodi's response to the accusations made against him in these and the original letter sent by the MCB to The Guardian requesting that they deny him a platform to express his views.

A copy of Mr. Bodi's response is given below.

IHRC would like to once more state that we do not take issue with the MCB's right to disagree with Mr. Bodi's views or indeed challenge them. We take issue with the fact that they saw fit to request his removal as a contributor to The Guardian without settling this matter either directly with Mr. Bodi, or through mediation through other Muslims. We feel that it is Islamically unacceptable for the MCB or any other body to try and undermine and vilify fellow Muslims. We requested campaigners to contact the MCB and try and get this issue sorted out within the community.

It is an Islamic tradition to point out to those who act in our name when a mistake has been made and needs to be rectified. Indeed Hadrat Umar (r.a.) was challenged by a woman during his caliphate and he not only accepted this but established this to be worthy behaviour. In this case it seems only appropriate that an organisation that sees itself in a leadership position should be accountable for its actions.

We still hope and pray that this matter can be sorted out in a manner that behoves Muslims.

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Open letter to the MCB regarding its request to the Guardian to stop giving the journalist Faisal Bodi a platform to write.

Yusouf Bhailok
Secretary General
Muslim Council of Britain


Dear Mr Bhailok

I have read with some sadness and consternation your organisation¹s response to the complaints your letter to the Guardian dated 24 January 2002 has elicited.

It appears that instead of acknowledging your mistake your organisation has opted to dig a deeper hole for itself by deciding to tell lie upon lie.

I am particularly disturbed at your statement that having "personally
contacted him (Faisal Bodi) and requested him - unsuccessfully - to desist from such unIslamic behaviour, we took up our right to contact the editor of The Guardian and wrote a point by point rebuttal of these
misrepresentations".

If indeed such an approach has been made I challenge the MCB to produce the relevant record (conversations or letters). The real state of affairs is as follows:

On October 22 following my article in G2 criticising the mainstream media
for referring to unelected, government-friendly spokesmen I received a
telephone call from an irate Inayat Bunglawala, chair of the MCB¹s media
committee.

Rather than raise whatever objections he had with my article in a civil
manner Mr Bunglawala attacked me for being "intellectually dishonest" and
challenged me to "name prominent regional organisations" which were not in the MCB. We exchanged what can best be described as "unpleasantries" before Mr Bunglawala slammed down the receiver.

This ear-bashing represents the only OIslamic¹ "request" I have ever
received from the MCB.

Furthermore, it is more than a little strange that while the MCB has chosen to write to the Guardian to express its concerns about my writing, it has failed to do likewise with me.

I don¹t for one minute believe this is an accident. Rather, it represents a cynical, cloak and dagger apparent attempt to malign my reputation with the Guardian in the hope that it might remove a source of criticism of your organisation.

In fact were it not for the integrity of the Guardian¹s editor, who passed to me a copy of the letter, I would still be in the dark about what the MCB was plotting behind my back.

It is also a matter of concern that while the MCB purports to champion
Muslim media it also seeks to undermine independent voices within that
media. The proper course of action for any person or group who feels that
they have been misrepresented in a newspaper article is to seek redress in the letters pages, or in a direct rebuttal in the editorial section of the newspaper itself. Far from being a Odirect point by point rebuttal" as your response states, it goes well beyond that to demanding that the Guardian remove a standing contributor.

It appears your intention was never to set the record straight. Your
intention was to try and secure the removal of a journalist who takes issue with your organisation on some important issues. Your actions belie all your claims to support Muslim journalism. The only kind of journalism you seem willing to tolerate is the non-critical kind that you receive in your government-sponsored mouthpiece, the Muslim News.

I am also disturbed by your suggestion that I have a personal agenda. As
somebody who has benefited personally from the MCB¹s support in my dispute with the BBC I would have thought that I have personal interest in maintaining good relations with your organisation. With this in mind I seek clarification as to what my own agenda might be.

I have also taken the time to go through Mr Bunglawala¹s claims in his
letter of 24 January 2002. They are preposterous, exaggerated and downright deceitful and misleading. They illustrate just the domineering,
self-important attitude in the MCB that I have had criticised,

Mr Bungalwala claims:


a) that I am wrong to describe the MCB as unelected.
Mr Bunglawala is being disingenuous when he says that the MCB office holders are elected every two years. He knows full wee that this is not the kind of "election" to which I am referring.

The MCB does not have any direct mandate from even a significant section of the Muslim community to represent it.

True, it has 350 organisations (listed on its website), more than any other similar body. But a closer analysis reveals that:

(1) many of the MCB¹s affiliated organisations do not operate any system of internal election.
(2) Many organisations affiliated to the MCB are local branches of a parent organisation, like the UK Islamic Mission, which has some 29 branches, ISB which has six, and Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith which has seven. There are many other examples. This method of listing inflates the actual size and representativeness of the MCB.
(3) There is an overlap of membership and control of affiliated
organisations which also inflates the MCB¹s size. Senior office holders in one organisation also hold office in other MCB affiliated organisations
(4) Yet other organisations are lame ducks or paper groups representing at best a handful of self-appointed individuals

b) that I am wrong to say that "prominent regional organisations have
shunned the MCB umbrella". In response may I simply refer you to the 2002
edition of the Muslim Directory in which there are listed hundreds national, regional and local organisations that have not joined the MCB.

c) that I have misrepresented the MCB¹s stance on Sept 11 and the subsequent war on terror. Mr Bunglawala is bordering on telling untruths here. I stand fully behind my statement that the MCB was not as strong in its condemnation of the war on terror as it was of the Sept 11 attacks. It unequivocally "condemned" the latter while merely "opposing" the former. The statements are a matter of public record and I strongly urge anybody with any doubts to read them.

d) that I misrepresented the MCB in saying it refused to support the
national anti-war demonstration in October. This again is untrue. Several
Muslim organisations backed the demonstration and the MCB was not one of
them. The anti-war coalition, which includes CND, will confirm that the MCB never publicly backed the protest.


e) that I misrepresented the MCB¹s position in my article of 24 January. I believe my criticism to be justified. The sentence Mr Bunglawala complains about is indeed a criticism of an MCB leadership which I believe is too close to government to be able to share the sense of victimhood felt by those it purports to represent. Mr Bhailok¹s statements to BBC Online on 23 January do nothing to refute this charge. Incidentally my article was only submitted to the Guardian on this day so I did not have the benefit Mr Bhailok¹s statements. But even if I had seen them it would not have changed my view that on balance the MCB¹s position has been overwhelmingly more pro-government than pro-community.

It might be worth noting here that since Sept 11, I have received numerous letters and emails from ordinary members of the Muslim community praising me for highlighting the failures of Muslim leadership, which, it should be remembered, have not been confined to the MCB. Some of them have even been from your members, who have said the MCB, has failed to reflect Muslim opinion on Sept 11 and its aftermath. I have even received messages of support from the committee of the Jamea Mosque, Clarendon St, Preston, which nominated Mr Bhailok for office in the MCB. The mosque is concerned that it has not been consulted at all in the MCB¹s stand on September 11 and its aftermath.

This raises the obvious question of just how many other MCB affiliates have not been consulted.

In conclusion I very much hope that the MCB will reflect on my comments on its behaviour and take the necessary remedial action. If there are points of disagreement then may I suggest a public forum in which we can discuss them in a civilised manner so that the Muslim community can make make up its own mind as to who is telling the truth and who, to paraphrase Mr Bunglawala, is "peddling malicious falsehoods".

Your sincerely

Faisal Bodi