Maajid Nawaz Accuses Twitter User of Making Threat Over Freedom of Information Release

From the Liberal Democrat Voice:

Quilliam Foundation to sue after Maajid Nawaz’s and other staff members’ personal information went up on government website

The Times reports (£) that in the week when Liberal Democrat candidate Maajid Nawaz was subject to death threats after tweeting a cartoon of Mohammed, the Department of Communities and Local Government erroneously published his personal mobile number as part of a response to a Freedom of Information request…

There follows an extract (without a link) from the paywalled article itself, by Katie Gibbons. Headlined “Lib Dem in Muhammad hate campaign row to sue government for posting details online”, it includes the following:

The response that led to the publication of personal details concerned e-mails between Mr Nawaz and Mark Caroll, a senior DCLG official, sent in October last year in which the former requested funding for “vital” community work. The grant has since been denied.

The request is thought to have been made by an individual named Jason Schuman, who, under the Twitter handle @debatingculture, threatened to publicise the data that had been released by DCLG. His Twitter account has now been suspended.

Nawaz asked for renewed funding on the back of  high-profile defections by the leaders of the EDL, which were “facilitated” by Quilliam in October; the Guardian reported a few days later that Nawaz had told Stephen Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) that “he would work to introduce [him] to his own contacts in government and the Home Office in an attempt to procure government funding.”

Perhaps there’s more behind the paywall, but the extract on Lib Dem Voice does not substantiate the claim of a threat by Schuman to “publicise” the phone number, and the @debatingculture Twitter feed has been restored. The two men had an acrimonious exchange on 2 February:

debatingculture
If anyone is wondering why @MaajidNawaz’s personal details are being published, ask @CommunitiesUK, as it is they who failed to redact. Link

Maajid Nawaz:
@debatingculture yes @CommunitiesUK have failed by releasing my private data,I intend to formally complain,but u are preparing to publicise Link

debatingculture:
@MaajidNawaz: Two FoIRs. One is mine. Mine not yet published. You discussed conspiring to withhold with aid of @NewScotlandYard. Link

Maajid Nawaz 
.@debatingculture 1) was protecting my team after death threats 2) why not publish your own private details on here instead of mine.Scared? Link

debatingculture
@MaajidNawaz: Again, DCLG published your details, not me. They should have redacted but didn’t. I tried to stop this. Even had arguments abt Link

Maajid Nawaz ‏@MaajidNawaz Feb 2
.@debatingculture last two RTs prove you know who’s publishing my data. I’ve had threats. Send your name so you can cooperate with police Link

Since that time, Schuman (of whose existence I was unaware before seeing this today) has continued to maintain that he did not make any such threat and that he is opposed to publicising private details. There is nothing immediately visible in his timeline to suggest otherwise, and he seems to be a reasonably civil person. He does, however, confirm that his Twitter feed was suspended, and he says that he was told this was for “spamming” (which he denies, and of which there is no evidence).

The contents of the FoI request were published on WhatDoTheyKnow.com; the page and its contents were highlighted by Jessica Elgot in a piece for the Huffington Post on 3 February. However, the same page now carries a holding message:

The Department for Communities and Local Government has alerted us to the fact they accidentally released a great deal of personal information in this message. A replacement response has been requested.

This is somewhat mysterious: the DCLG release included Nawaz’s mobile number (mentioned in an email), and there’s a private personal detail he has already mentioned in interviews anyway, but it’s an exaggeration to call this a “great deal of personal information”. Problematic details could have been redacted in moments.

Nawaz has come under threats of violence since he Tweeted an image taken from the Jesus and Mo cartoon series, and some of his opponents (such as Mohammed Shafiq) have seized on the controversy opportunistically – and irresponsibly – in an attempt to derail his election candidacy. Consequently, he has also received a great deal of support from supporters of free speech and opponents of religious extremism.

Perhaps Nawaz is on a short fuse as result of the threats against him, but one is forced to suspect that he’s abusing the goodwill he’s received. The charge against Schuman does not appear to stand up, and it looks like Nawaz – with the help of an uncritical media locked into a particular narrative – is attempting to whip up a mob of his own in an attempt to discourage critical interest in his communications with government departments.

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