Last month, in response to complaints about its coverage of the case of a former Hizb ut-Tahrir member convicted of sexually abusing young girls to whom he was giving religious instruction, the Telegraph published the following retraction on its website:
Our report "Extremist leader jailed for child abuse" (Jan 20) wrongly said that some of the victims of Ashraf Miah, described in a court report as a former teacher at the East London Mosque, were introduced via the Mosque. We are happy to confirm that the Mosque has no record of him ever having taught there and that there was no suggestion at trial of his victims having been introduced to him there.
The Telegraph's retraction referred to a report posted by Andrew Gilligan on his Telegraph blog (reproduced below), which stated:
The court heard that Miah also taught at the hardline East London Mosque, controlled by the Islamic Forum of Europe, which also believes in turning the UK into a sharia state, though by different methods. The mosque has hosted many hate, extremist and terrorist preachers, including Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda spiritual leader. Some of the victims were introduced to Miah via the mosque.
This was the link to the offending report: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewgilligan/100072691/extremist-leader-jailed-for-child-abuse/ As you can see, the article has been deleted (either by Gilligan himself or by the administrators of the Telegraph website) and the link is now dead. But the report can still be found online, for example here.
You might think that Gilligan owed the East London Mosque an apology – after all, the accusation that the mosque harboured a child molestor who used its premises to target his victims was an extremely damaging one. But that would involve Gilligan admitting he got it wrong, and that would never do. So instead Gilligan has simply denied that he had any responsibility for publishing this false accusation. In a recent post on his Telegraph blog he wrote:
It is untrue to claim, as the mosque and its echoes in the blogosphere often do, including in its latest statement, that the Daily Telegraph has corrected any story I wrote about it: the correction was to a news-in-brief item (six months ago!) written by someone else. And if that 50-word piece, in all the tens of thousands of words we've written about the East London Mosque, is the only fault they've been able to find, I think we're doing pretty well.
And in an earlier post on the East London Mosque, Gilligan had a go at yours truly over the same issue. After attacking my piece defending the mosque against charges of inciting homophobic violence, he added:
Bob's passion for truth was also evident the other week, when he attacked me for an incorrect news-in-brief item about the mosque in the Telegraph which I did not write.
Now, it is true that the Telegraph did publish a news-in-brief piece on Ashraf Miah's conviction in its print edition of 19 January (it is reproduced below). And the Telegraph also published a retraction of the inaccurate claims in that article:
Our report "Muslim extremist jailed for abusing girls at mosque" (Jan 19) wrongly said that Ashraf Miah, described in a court report as a former teacher at the East London Mosque, committed his offences on its premises. We are happy to confirm that he did not and that the Mosque has no record of him ever having taught there.
However, nobody has attributed this news-in-brief report to Gilligan. My own post reproduced the Telegraph's online statement regarding the false accusations against the East London Mosque in Gilligan's blog article, from which I quoted. I didn't refer at all to the short report in the print edition, still less claim that Gilligan had written it. In its response to the Telegraph's retractions the East London Mosque, too, clearly distinguished between the article on Gilligan's blog and the news-in-brief report in the print edition, and made no claim that Gilligan was the author of the latter.
So what is Gilligan on about? The reality is that he did post a report on his Telegraph blog making false accusations against the East London Mosque. Having subsequently accepted that the accusations in that article were without basis, the Telegraph published a retraction and removed the article from its website. Now, in an attempt to deflect attention from this, Gilligan indignantly denies that he was the author of a different report in the Telegraph's print edition which nobody has in fact claimed he wrote.
Gilligan is very ready to accuse his critics of being liars, and you might be inclined to level the same charge against Gilligan himself. But that is possibly unfair. Liars are generally capable of recognising objective facts but choose to cover them up. Gilligan is perhaps better understood as a man living in a private fantasy world who is psychologically incapable of distinguishing between what's true and what isn't.
Muslim extremist jailed for abusing girls at mosque
Daily Telegraph print edition, 19 January 2011
A man has been jailed for a series of sex attacks on children while he was leader of a Muslim extremist group and a teacher at a hardline London mosque. Ashraf Miah, 38, from Mile End, repeatedly molested girls while they recited religious texts at the East London Mosque, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard. His victims were aged between five and seven. Miah, a senior member of the extremist group Hizb ut Tahrir, was jailed for three years and three months.
Extremist leader jailed for child abuse
Andrew Gilligan's Telegraph blog, 20 January 2011
A man has been jailed for a series of sex attacks on committed while he was leader of a Muslim extremist group and a teacher at a hardline London mosque.
Ashraf Miah, 38, from Mile End, a former teacher at the East London Mosque, repeatedly molested the girls whilst they recited religious texts. The youngest victim was five and the oldest only seven.
Miah was at the time the East End leader of the notorious extremist group Hizb ut Tahrir, which believes that voting and democracy is forbidden in Islam and wants to turn Britain into a sharia state. He is listed as its contact for a number of events.
"He was a bit of a loner in the Hizb and did not have many friends, but he was a senior figure," said one former member of the group.
During his trial, Miah claimed that the prosecution was a "conspiracy" against him because of his political views. Senior members of Hizb ut Tahrir gave evidence in Miah's defence. However, the jury rejected his claims.
The assaults took place over a four-year period, from 2003 to 2007, during lessons at Miah's flat and other houses in east London. Some of the girls complained to their parents about the abuse, but were not believed.
Snaresbrook Crown Court heard that the offences came to light after one of the girls' fathers had a change of heart and reported her case to police. More victims were traced and Miah was convicted of a total of 13 sexual assaults against five different youngsters.
Sentencing him to three years and three months, Judge William Kennedy told Miah: "The children in this case came from three entirely separate and different families.
"Your suggestion at trial, and apparently still now, was and is that somehow the parents of those children have conspired to destroy your reputation. The suggestion that any parent would willingly encourage his or her daughter to lie about events in these circumstances was one which the jury considered and rejected.
"The possibility of coincidence of similar complaints by unconnected children is simply impossible."
The court heard that Miah also taught at the hardline East London Mosque, controlled by the Islamic Forum of Europe, which also believes in turning the UK into a sharia state, though by different methods. The mosque has hosted many hate, extremist and terrorist preachers, including Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda spiritual leader. Some of the victims were introduced to Miah via the mosque. The mosque said last night that it had "no record" of his working there.
The judge told Miah: "You were entrusted with these children as a religious teacher. As such you occupied a position of great importance and reputation. You repeatedly abused that trust.
"Right thinking people find it impossible to understand what gratification could possibly be achieved by the almost surreptitious touching of very small children. That the touching was sexual is beyond doubt.
"The offending was persistent, extending over a period of four years, and always involving children unlikely to be able to complain believably about what you were doing to them.
"Whatever may be the answer as to why you committed offences of this sort, the fact is that all decent people reserve a particular condemnation for those who abuse positions of trust to interfere with children."
A Hizb ut Tahrir spokesman said last night that Miah had not been part of the group for two years and it was "satisfied that he did not use Hizb ut Tahrir for any criminal purpose." The spokesman said that Hizb ut Tahrir members who testified for Miah "did so in a personal capacity."