British Muslim Initiative Threatens to Sue Blog over “Jewish Evil” Claim

UK liberal hawk website Harry’s Place has been threatened with a libel action by the British Muslim Initiative over claims that the BMI’s president, Mohammad Sawalha, had railed against the “[evil Jew/Jewish evil] in Britain” in Arabic. Sawalha’s view was reported on the Arabic al-Jazeera website, which later changed the wording to “Jewish lobby in Britain” (without the “evil” bit), as if that were somehow better. Medyan Dairieh, who wrote the al-Jazeera article, complained in the comments that it was all down to a spelling mistake:

I wrote the report that has been misquoted, I mispelt one word in arabic, ????? instead of ?????? (lobby). The mistake renders the word meaningless in arabic and english except to people who can actually read arabic and posess intelligence who would understand the mistake to read as ‘lobby’. It is fairly obvious that the author of the piece we are discussing has a deliberate agenda, cannot read arabic and has no common sense…The only reference to jews as evil is on this site. Could you please get a grip. This is a non story.

That’s a rather casual way to admit to having made a disastrous error. The BMI responded with a press release, followed up with a legal threat:

Anas Altikriti, spokesman of BMI, commented earlier: “…This is another example of not only very basic incompetence at play, but pure evil that sees no shame or wrong in plainly lying for the purpose of demonising certain individuals and organisations, regardless of reality or facts”.

BMI have alerted its legal advisors to this matter and will be monitoring the blog-site in question as well as any quoting of this error by any other media outlet, and will be pursuing measures to bring those who do to account.

Harry’s Place does have a habit of spinning critics of Israel in the most negative way possible (in ways that I often find quite annoying), but this bombastic response is absurd.

However, as David T of Harry’s Place notes, a legal action will certainly fail. Sawalha has links with Hamas, so the disputed quote would hardly lower his reputation even if the “evil Jew” interpretation is wrong. Further, it seems to me that there there is a public interest in bringing the dispute to light, and the BMI have been allowed to put their side of the story.

Sawalha may have more luck suing Dairieh. I’ll even help him out by noting a precedent, from 1999:

THE SINGER and aspiring politician Patti Boulaye yesterday accepted pounds 15,000 libel damages and a public apology over The Guardian’s allegation that she was a supporter of apartheid… The journalist had misheard what Ms Boulaye said and had understood her to be saying “apartheid” when she was in fact saying “a party”.

2 Responses

  1. boy that post is confusing!

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