Mo Ansar: Some Notes On Recent Controversies

From Jeremy Duns, on Twitter:

People asking me about Mo Ansar, here was his sockpuppet account, @The_Truthteller, originally called @MoAnsar2 [Link]

Ansar, who is known as a UK Muslim media commentator, says that he has been “smeared”; @The_Truthteller has now disappeared, although its author said before departing that he (or she) had taken Ansar’s name at one point in the past out of “solidarity”. Relevant screenshots have been assembled by Homo economicus.

Duns – who is known for his efforts in exposing online fakery and deception, particularly in the case of thriller author Stephen Leather – also summarizes some further charges against Ansar: that his supposed religious moderation is false, that he bears some responsibility for death threats against Maajid Nawaz, and that he made a vexatious complaint to police against Iain Dale.

Duns further suggests that Ansar may be running some other sockpuppet accounts; but while it looks to me that there’s a case to answer as regards @The_Truthteller, I’m not convinced by the other examples: they don’t sound like him, and the inference seems to be based purely on the fact they are supportive of Ansar. One of these accounts (@xtc_uk) has also sent Tweets in my direction, while to my knowledge there’s no indication that Ansar is aware of my existence

[UPDATE (February 2015): Duns has now triangulated some Tweets from @moansar, @xtc_uk, and an account called @creepingfascism. The evidence of common authorship is strong.]

The issue of Ansar’s moderation has come under particular scrutiny since a television exchange with Nawaz in which Ansar appeared to prevaricate on the implementation of traditional hudud punishments in Islamic states; I don’t think this means Ansar is “really” an extremist: rather, he lacks the willingness to stand up to conservatives. As the historian Tom Holland wrote last October:

I don’t for a minute thinks @moansar supports slavery or judicial mutilation – but he can’t 100% historicise Islamic scriptures, so twists.

(Holland and Ansar used to engage in banter on Twitter, although their interaction these days is simply acrimonious)

The death threats against Nawaz, meanwhile, relate to the controversy over Nawaz’s Tweeting of a cartoon from the Jesus and Mo cartoon strip, which I discussed here. The image showed Jesus and Muhammad greeting each other with “Hey” and “How ya doing?”, and Nawaz explained that “I posted that image here to explain how, as a Muslim, I didn’t find this particular image offensive.” This falls far short of an endorsement of the whole Jesus and Mo corpus, but Ansar attempted to push the issue by claiming – incorrectly – that Nawaz had linked “to a website which depicts prophets in bed together.” At a time when tempers were running high, that was at best irresponsibly careless, at worst deliberately malicious.

The police complaint against Dale followed a spat in March. Dale writes:

This all stems from a twitter exchange between Nicky Campbell and Mo Ansar on 22 March which I got involved with. It concerned the chairman of the Birmingham Mosque (who has since sadly died) who had made intemperate remarks likening gays to murderers and paedophiles. Mo Ansar appeared to be defending him on the basis he was an old man. I asked him directly if he agreed with his views, as I would have found that very surprising given his self styled “thoroughly modern muslim” stances.

Dale then presents a Storify of the Twitter exchange. Here’s part of it:

Dale: @MoAnsar @NickyAACampbell Engage with the argument. Or are you as bigoted as your mate in Birmingham?

Ansar: @IainDale @NickyAACampbell Stop trolling me, Iain. You’re boring me.

Dale: @MoAnsar @NickyAACampbell Good. I will block you then. You’ve bored me for years. Which is why you never get on my show. And never will.

Dale: …you are a gobby prick who leeches off the state while pretending to represent a “community”. Bye. 

This doesn’t present Dale in a particularly good light; his question is goading rather than challenging, and he’s clearly revelling in his status as a media gatekeeper before descending into plain abuse. But Ansar’s absurd reaction was to out-diva him:

For the record, I have reported @LBC’s @IainDale for anti-Muslim harassment and abuse relating to his behaviour on 22nd March 2014.

Inevitably, Ansar’s complaint to police went nowhere, and Dale says he was also cleared of anti-Muslim sentiment by Tell Mama. A correct outcome – although Dale himself, when it suits him, is not adverse to conflating criminal behaviour with being robustly criticised.

UPDATE: Jeremy Duns and Nick Cohen have now published comprehensive accounts examining Ansar’s background and strange rise to media prominence.

3 Responses

  1. Just caught up with this. I think your evaluation is very judicious, but I would just add that Iain Dale seems to be actively sensitive to anti-Muslim bigotry – for example he is, I understand, quite a warm supporter of Tell MAMA. This underlines that fact that, while he may have been rude to Ansar, this wasn’t because he is bigoted.

    • I don’t think he’s bigoted – and I don’t think he gives a toss about Ansar’s views on the late chairman of the Birmingham Mosque, either.

      This was originally about Dale showing off that he has Nicky Campbell as a media peer, and that he has the power to decide who’s “in” and who’s “out”. But Ansar’s histrionics (and worse) have now overshadowed that somewhat.

  2. […] few days ago I was reminded of a blog post – Mo Ansar: Some Notes On Recent Controversies and an update that appeared therein […]

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