Journalists like Andrew Gilligan are playing a significant role in the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred in the UK, writes Dilly Hussain.
The demonisation of Islam and Muslims in the British media is gradually becoming mainstream and socially accepted. I have written and spoken about this growing ‘trend’ extensively, and highlighted how the indiscriminate witch-hunt of Muslim organisations and figures is no longer reserved for actual terrorists, who happen to be adherents of the Islamic faith.
The frequency of negative articles and media coverage on the Muslim community and its beliefs is not specific to Britain. In reality, this has become a well-established ‘editorial policy’ across the Western world, and has been the case ever since 9/11, and the subsequent war on terror.
With regards to the British press, newspapers like the Daily Express, Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Telegraph are impressively consistent in their quantity and ‘quality’ of articles covering the Muslim community.
However, there is one journalist in particular, whose work I have been following very closely for the last seven years.
Andrew Gilligan of The Telegraph is infamously known for his relentless pursuit of “Islamist extremism”, and also happens to hold a very interesting curriculum vitae.
The Hutton Inquiry and the “dodgy dossier” scandal
It would be an understatement to say that Gilligan’s illustrious career has been filled with controversy, most notably for his “dodgy dossier” report, which was described in the Hutton Inquiry as “inconsistent” and “unfounded”. In fact, it was only when I started looking into the events which led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the death of Dr David Kelly, that I first came to know of Gilligan.
12 years on, and some within the political establishment and close to the late Dr Kelly still level a portion of blame on Gilligan for the scientist who authored the Iraq dossier committing suicide. Gilligan resigned from the BBC in early 2004 following the publication of the Hutton Inquiry report, which heavily criticised his journalism and conduct in relation to the “dodgy dossier” story.
Thereon, he was offered a job at The Spectator by his good friend Boris Johnson who was editor at the time. Gilligan has arguably a lot to show for, in terms of the publications and positions he has held, adding the London Evening Standard, Channel 4 Dispatches, and strangely the Iranian state-owned Press TV on his resume.
On the Ayatollah’s payroll
Gilligan’s McCarthyite obsession in exposing “Islamists” was questioned when a source within Press TV claimed that he was being paid £5,000 a week for presenting a fortnightly show.
When he was called out by fellow Spectator journalist Ron Liddle for his role at the Iranian regime’s propaganda machine in 2009, he refused to disclose the exact sum of money accumulated, and eventually left six months later before making a further two appearances just before the 2010 General Election.
Gilligan stated that his decision to leave Press TV was a self-realisation that it was “inconsistent” with his opposition to Islamism. Whilst that may be true, one cannot help but ask how such a contradictory position was taken by a journalist known for his crusade against “Islamism”, yet, happily worked for the voice piece of a theocratic “Islamist” regime.
Gilligan’s war on “Islamist extremists”
Despite the historical controversy, Gilligan has been an ardent opponent of what he deems to be “Islamist extremism” hell-bent on establishing a Caliphate, implementing Shari’ah law in Britain, and entering the political system to overthrow it. Whilst in “principle”, some may support this hawkish neoconservative cause, once you look at Gilligan’s Islamist “hit list”, it can be argued that his classification of “extremists” includes Muslim organisations and figures from a wide spectrum of theological and political backgrounds.
- The former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman had 15 blog posts written about him by Gilligan, accusing him of mishandling public funds, and having links with the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE).
- The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest British Muslim umbrella organisation was described by Gilligan as “intolerant” for encouraging Muslim women to dress modestly.
- The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) is frequently criticised by Gilligan for allegedly “hosting extremist speakers” at university campuses.
- The UK-based charity Interpal is regularly labelled by Gilligan as a front for the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.
- The pro-Palestinian advocacy website Middle East Monitor (MEMO), the think-tank Cordoba Foundation and its founder Anas al-Tikriti, and the British Muslim Initiativehave all been shunned by Gilligan as “fronts” for the Muslim Brotherhood.
- Gilligan also had a spat with the Al Jazeera, New Statesman, and former editor of Huffington Post UK journalist Mehdi Hasan.
- 10 days after the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, Gilligan dismissed and belittled the rise of Islamophobic attacks against Muslims, as recorded by Tell Mama.
- The former Conservative cabinet minister, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, was deemed an ‘extremist sympathiser’ by Gilligan for her affiliation to the Muslim social and political lobby group MEND, in the run up to the 2015 General Election.
- The prominent Muslim debater, ‘Abdullah al Andalusi’ recently felt the brunt of Gilligan’s yellow journalism when his previous employment at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) was equated to hypocrisy because he criticised Western governments in his lectures and debates.
- Even Jeremy Corbyn, a non-Muslim MP, who is running for the Labour Party leadership has been smeared by Gilligan as a “friend of extremists” for alleged links with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
- And of course, there the “usual suspects” who Gilligan will find any excuse to malign, even if it’s a random sentence or paragraph in a totally unrelated article: Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, advocacy group CAGE, Islamic political party Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), and dawah organisation the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) – all of whom have a grassroots following within the Muslim community.
It is evident that Gilligan neither differentiates nor substantiates the politically loaded labels he attributes to Muslim figures and organisations. With labels being applied to such a diverse group of Muslims, it’s worrying that Gilligan fails to actually define who or what he means by ‘Islamist extremists’.
What is of greater concern is how The Telegraph, a flagship British newspaper has allowed Gilligan feed the general public with this dangerous rhetoric, which has played a significant role in the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry in the UK.