New Statesman reported The day after it was revealed that the London bombers were British, the Guardian newspaper gave space on its opinion pages to one of its trainee journalists, a young Muslim called Dilpazier Aslam, to write about the background to the atrocity. [Note, the article on the web now shows his background, but it was added on July 23]
Describing himself as a "Yorkshire lad born and bred", Aslam said that second- and third-generation British Muslims were different from their elders, "much sassier" and more ready to "rock the boat". They were angry about British foreign policy, he wrote, and their anger would build up "till it can be contained no more". He included one line of measured condemnation: "I think what happened was a sad day and not the way to express your political anger."
This article, striking for its tone and because the writer had a highly relevant background, was reprinted in the Melbourne Age and Los Angeles Times. Aslam also wrote news articles about the events surrounding the bombings.
I assume Melbourne Age is a left wing paper, just like the Los Angeles Times.What readers of the Guardian were not told was that Aslam is a member of the extreme Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. Though it publicly dissociates itself from violence, Hizb ut-Tahrir is shunned by most British Muslims and banned from many mosques. As I have reported in the New Statesman, it manipulates people and can be seen as part of a conveyor belt towards violence - its literature was found, for example, in the home of Omar Sharif, the Derby man who volunteered for a suicide bombing mission in Israel. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Germany.
My strongly held view is that members of such a group should not be allowed to write on this subject in the national press (just as the British National Party, which also claims to be non-violent, is very rarely given space), but if they do their connection should be made clear, preferably at the beginning of the article.
How had it come about that this Guardian journalist was reporting and commenting on such events without his background being made known to readers? When I raised this with the paper, it confirmed that Aslam was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir but would only say the matter was "under review". I reported this in the Independent on Sunday (I am freelance) and the story separately, without my involvement, found its way on to internet blog sites.
The issues at stake are important, both ethically and in relation to the reputation of the Muslim community, but the questions remained unanswered. When I approached the Guardian again, it accused me of being "irresponsible in the extreme" and said it had complained to the editor of the Independent on Sunday.
Why was he being irresponsible in the extreme? He just reported something the Guardian did not disclose. Or did the left-wing Guardian not know of the author's background, and was it embarrased at having run the article?As for the key questions, it said only: "This is an internal matter which is currently under review and we have nothing further to add."
I hope the review is rigorous and that its results will be made public. And, for the record, I am not a member of any party or religious organisation.
I agree that papers should not print articles from people in extremists organizations, and if they do, it certainly should be clearly disclosed.
As indicated above, they did finally publish a clarification on July 23, after these letters on July 14 this and this and this, article by Aslam on July 14, this article by Aslam on July 15, this article on July 22 complaining about the coverage in the blogs, this article on July 22 indicating he had left the Guardian, this background on Hizb ut-Tahrir, this background on the Guardian and Dilpazier Aslam
David T blogged The dismissal of Dilpazier Aslam, the Hizb'ut Tahrir journalist, who was sacked by the Guardian after Scott Burgess' investigation uncovered his advocacy of extreme racist views on the website Khilafah.com, has been covered in yesterday's Times online, and the New Statesman. It appears that the story will shortly be reported in a forthcoming article in the French equivalent of the Guardian, Liberation. Meanwhile, the issue is being discussed by union members at the Guardian. They should consider how their newspaper came to be used as the mouthpiece for an extreme theocratic, racist and totalitarian political party. The possibilities which should be addressed, specifically, are as follows:
- Did the Guardian editor or editors who commissioned the various Aslam pieces know that Aslam was a member of Hizb'ut Tahrir?
- If so, did those editors appreciate the nature of Hizb?
- If they knew the nature of Hizb, why did they continue to commission him to write articles on issues which are central to the Hizb political programme, without requiring the disclosure to their readership of Aslam's membership of an extreme political party?