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Home > Media

The Evening Standard: The Paper That Hates London

26 August 2005

On Thursday July 28th, the Evening Standard published an article entitled 'Terror and hatred for sale in the heart of capital'. In the article, Standard writer Robert Mendick told of how an Islamic bookshop called Dar Al Taqwa sold books and DVDs 'advocating terrorism' and 'urging Muslims to wage a holy war by arming themselves with bombs and guns'. They printed a picture of the shop, the address of the shop and even the shop's phone number. You can probably guess what happened next. The bookshop employees were immediately subject to a rigorous campaign of abusive phone calls and personal threats. Quite right, you might think. Send 'em back. They come over here, convert our women and threaten our freedom... Well, quite. Trouble is, it was all a dirty great lie.

Dar Al Taqwa, which incidentally translates as House of Awe and Wonder, has been selling Islam-related publications for 21 years. None of the publications it sells in any way support or encourage violence. In a letter written by the shop's Managing Director Samir El-Attar, he says, 'We have always promoted literature which encourages people to be law-abiding citizens from whose hands and whose tongues everyone is safe.' Furthermore, having visited Dar Al Taqwa in the course of inventing his article, Mendick is sure to have been aware of this. None of the so-called hate-peddling publications Mendick claimed could be purchased at Dar Al Taqwa can in fact be purchased at Dar Al Taqwa. He lied.
Furthermore, one of these publications, a DVD of a lecture given by Dr Zakir Naik in March 2000, is not supportive of terrorism. Rather, Naik has always spoken out against terrorism. But his lecture, and the accompanying video, is entitled 'Terrorism in the Name of Islam', so for a hate-peddling journalist such as Robert Mendick, it was simply too easy.

Sadly, it doesn't stop there. The day after the article was published, El-Attar wrote to the Evening Standard, detailing the extent of Mendick's defamatory and highly inflammatory article. The Standard refused to print the letter. However, to give them their due, they did agree to publish an article of equal length refuting the false allegations, together with an apology for having lied and incited religious hatred. So the article was written and a suggested apology drafted. Then, sadly, the Evening Standard changed their minds and refused to print either.

As El-Attar points out in his unpublished letter to the Standard, the only hatred and terror for sale in this case was the hatred and terror being incited by Robert Mendick and sold by the Evening Standard. They even removed the 'Not In Our name' posters in the bookshop window on the photograph they printed. The article then, was deliberately manipulated in order to give a false impression of an innocent bookseller. Surely we have laws against this? Well, yes. Thankfully we do.

This morning we spoke to Samir El-Attar. The situation sadly, has not improved. 'Every day we receive threatening calls,' he told us. 'Even my daughter was threatened. People are still frightened to come to the shop, our customers are stopped and searched in the street outside the shop and our income has been slashed by half.' Robert Mendick must be so proud of himself. As for the question of the Evening Standard being allowed to get away with it, El-Attar and his lawyers are still 'giving them the chance' to properly apologise and set the record straight, but if they don't, which seems likely, he says 'we are of course going to take them to court'. In the meantime, the paper that hates London will carry on as normal.

Might we suggest in conclusion that Charles Clarke extend his new, improved hate laws to British citizens, and for the crimes of fomenting serious criminal activity and fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence, the entire staff of the Evening Standard is sent as far away from London as is humanly possible.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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