Undercover Mosque conclusions and questions
As we suspected, The Mail was wrong to say that Ofcom directly criticised the West Midlands Police in its ruling on C4′s Undercover Mosque – the most that can be said is that its tone was occasionally incredulous at the groundlessness of some of the complaints.
It is true, however, that all the complaints from all sources were completely and thoroughly dismissed. Those complainants included not only the WMP, but also 364 members of the public (“There appeared to be evidence that the complaints were part of a campaign”), the Islamic Cultural Centre and the London Central Mosque (for “unfair treatment” and “unwarranted infringement of privacy”), and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their embassy (for “unfair treatment”) who were represented by the notorious Schillings (of the Usmanov affair, among others).
The Saudi complaint was particularly silly. As Ofcom explain,
the programme made allegations against individuals from or
trained in Saudi Arabia, and organisations based there. The Committee found these
did not equate to allegations of wrongdoing by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (i.e. the
country’s government and monarchy)
In other words, usually addressed to paranoid adolescents, “It’s not about you”.
One question does present itself: if the Saudi case was such an obvious non-starter, what on earth could have induced Schillings to act on behalf of the petro-dollar rich kingdom in the first place?
UPDATE: (10:15 pm) Tahir Alam, assistant secretary of the MCB has defended the West Midlands Police:
I think the police acted responsibly by investigating within the current context.
There is an unhealthy focus on the Muslim community and coverage has been very unfriendly. It was not the first such programme to pursue a similar line of inquiry. These kind of irresponsible programmes damage community relations. Yes, there is freedom of the press, but that is no reason to target a select community in this way.
Meanwhile, The Telegraph carries a piece by the show’s producer, David Henshaw, who says
I have now written to the DPP and the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police asking for an explanation for the highly damaging allegations made in August – allegations that sought to undermine legitimate investigative journalism and that unjustly blackened the reputation of my company and my courageous and entirely honest team of programme makers.
UPDATE: (25 Nov) David Henshaw, the director of Hardcash Productions, is seriously thinking of suing the WMP:
I really don’t like the libel courts and believe in a world of free comment. I don’t mind abuse, but Hardcash’s reputation has been severely damaged and it was a good reputation