Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Vigil's lies, Newsnight's shame

I honestly never thought I would see the day when I was put in the position of having to post something in public defence of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, but having just watched BBC Newsnight, I don't feel I have a choice.

It was the kind of bog-standard "Jihadi devils in our midst" piece that has been hashed and rehashed over and over again in the gutter press since 9/11 all over the West, and especially since 7/7 in the UK. With a twist.

This particular report relied on supposedly new "secret" evidence from an organisation called "Vigil", which showed that Islamist organisations in the UK, the Hizb among them, were organising and actively plotting violence in the UK, as well as organising random gang warfare in order to stoke up ethnic tension. Don't bother trying to find Vigil's website, they're really secret squirrels apparently. Except for the fact that not one, but two of these brave men appeared, remarkably without balaclava or voice-over actor, on the report.

The first was Glen Jenvey, a man so free from bias and attached to reality that he calls his own website "Anti-Terrorist News", and links to several Christian ultra and right-wing sites ranging from the Western Defense Studies Institute (password protected, but it apparently exists to "to facilitate the exchange of ideas and opportunities between U.S. and European individuals and businesses to counter-terrorism and protect Western civilization"... oh, yes), to Pipeline News (motto: "The RIGHT news, RIGHT now"... preach, brothers...). Also the ubiquitous Internet Haganah. So he's obviously a model of journalistic impartiality.

Anyway, according to the report, Glen hangs around on Islamist websites until the early hours of the morning, pretending to be a Muslim and seeking to "expose" staggering facts such as that Omar Bakri Muhammad has terrorist sympathies. Now, I've heard Omar Bakri Muhammad speak in public before, and the "recordings" that Vigil presented didn't sound right to me, but that's by the by. Bakri's organisation Al-Muhajiroun (latterly apparently called Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa'ah) is the nearest thing that exists to extremist street theatre in the UK, with pantomime clowns in toilet roll bomb belts parading around calling for "death to the infidel" whilst being laughed at by passers by. The notion that these halfwits could be passed off as a serious terrorist threat is a joke to anyone with halfway reasonable knowledge of the Islamic political scene in the UK, and surely, surely if I know that then so do the BBC's researchers.

The other fellow from Vigil was one Dominic Whiteman. He's a pal of Glen's who (the wonders of Google reveal) spends a lot of his time writing smug polemics about having "infiltrated" the Tamil Tigers. Funny how they don't seem to give a toss about him, but there you go. He's apparently a reliable enough source for BBC Newsnight, so there.

And the attacks on Hizb-ut-Tahrir just made it look all the more weird. For those not in the know, the Hizb are a wacko group that call for a global caliphate - and they do this in many parts of the world. They dissasociated themselves from Bakri over a decade ago. Further, contrary to the Newsnight report, they have no record of violence in the UK, and in that light follow in a long tradition of harmless kooky ranting weirdos in British politics who go back to the flat earthers and beyond.

Dr Abdul Wahid of the Hizb was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman after the report was shown. At least, it was an "interview" in the sense that Paxo yelled and fulminated at Wahid, who appeared to refute all his points masterfully. This included Wahid producing written complaints from a South London Muslim forum about BBC cameras harrassing people outside a mosque, where the report attempted to show that the camera crew had been subjected to violence.

It was an attempted hatchet job by the BBC reporters concerned, and I for one am glad that the Hizb stood up to them.

I have never seen such a disgusting excuse for journalism in my life. In this era of daily attacks on Muslims in the UK, both in written form in the press and in physical form on the streets, for a national broadcaster to commission such a report based on the rantings of right-wing Islamophobic goons, demonstrates journalistic standards worthy of the BNP. Hizb's website is already stating that they plan legal action, and I say good luck to them. BBC News, you should hang your heads tonight - you have brought shame upon yourselves and your profession.


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