Dilpazier Aslam, extremist member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, sacked by The Guardian

July 26, 2005

* Hizb Ut-Tahrir’s leaflet says: “Kill them [the Jews] wherever you find them.”
* Dilpazier Aslam chooses to leave The Guardian rather than renounce Hizb Ut-Tahrir

[This is an update to the dispatch of July 18, 2005, titled Guardian staff journalist exposed as member of extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir.]

 

CONTENTS

1. “Dilpazier Aslam leaves Guardian” (The Guardian media section, July 22, 2005)
2. “Background: the Guardian and Dilpazier Aslam” (The Guardian, July 22, 2005)
3. “Aslam targeted by bloggers” (The Guardian media section, July 22, 2005)
4. “‘Guardian’ trainee may sue over sacking” (The Independent, July 24, 2005)
5. “We rock the boat” (By Dilpazier Aslam, The Guardian, July 13, 2005)

 





[Note by Tom Gross]

DILPAZIER ASLAM

A week after The Guardian provided their reporter Dilpazier Aslam with a platform for his extremist views on their opinion page, he has been removed from his job. This followed pressure on The Guardian generated by various outside media, including this email list.

The Guardian, which claims it is the “best daily newspaper on the world wide web,” admits in its follow-up background article that although Aslam did not mention his membership of the extremist Islamist group Hizb Ut-Tahrir on his 15 page application form, he “made no secret of his membership of this political party, drawing it to the attention of several colleagues and some senior editors.”

HIZB UT-TAHRIR AND OMAR BAKRI MOHAMMED

While The Guardian calls Hizb Ut-Tahrir a “political party,” it is banned as a terrorist group in several European countries. In Germany it is banned under German laws outlawing organizations which propagate Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, but it remains legal in Britain.

In another article, The Guardian merely describes Hizb Ut-Tahrir as a “fringe group”. Hizb Ut-Tahrir attracted 10,000 people to its conference in Birmingham, England’s second largest city, in 2003. The British Home Office advised ministers that the group “holds anti-Semitic, anti-Western and homophobic views.”

“KILL THE JEWS WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM”

For example, in March 2002, Hizb Ut-Tahrir published a leaflet threatening Jews. It said: “Kill them wherever you find them.” It went on to say that “The Jews are a people of slander” and praised Palestinian suicide bombers: “Today the mujahideen in Palestine provide us with the best of examples. The youth are competing in the martyrdom operations [i.e., suicide bomb attacks].”

In a meeting last week with The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, Aslam said he did not consider these words to be promoting violence or to be anti-Semitic. Rusbridger, under criticism from interests outside the mainstream media, including a number of influential journalists and political figures on this email list, then instituted disciplinary processes which led to Aslam’s dismissal. (Aslam says that he is “currently taking legal advice”.)

Hizb Ut-Tahrir is thought to have links with another British-based, al-Qaeda-linked group, Al-Muhajiroun and its leader Omar Bakri Mohammed, known as the “Tottenham Ayatollah” for the area of north London where he resides. Both groups declare their long-term aim is to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate. Mohammed has lived in Britain for 20 years and claims to have given religious instruction to the two Britons who went to Israel and murdered Israelis in a suicide attack at the Mike’s Place bar in Tel Aviv in 2003.

Last week Omar Bakri Mohammed, who has received many welfare and other benefits from the British tax-payer over the years, told the New York Times that the British government and the British people deserved the “blame” for the July 7 attacks in London.

THE GUARDIAN BLAMES BLOGGERS

Instead of admitting that they made a gross error of judgment in hiring Dilpazier Aslam, The Guardian has now attempted to shift the blame onto bloggers and rival newspapers for “personal attacks” on Aslam. They specifically target “rightwing bloggers from the US” and especially Scott Burgess (who “spends his time indoors”) and whose weblog, The Daily Ablution, broke this story. In an interesting twist to the story, the Guardian celebrates the fact that Aslam beat Burgess to the journalistic traineeship at the Guardian.

Scott Burgess is from New Orleans, but now lives in London. The Guardian assertion’s that “raving right-wing Americans” were essentially the only people who criticized its employment of an unrepentant Aslam, is untrue. A number of British commentators from right, center and left, also did so.

The Guardian also vents its fury at The Sun newspaper and what it calls its “attack-dog columnist,” Richard Littlejohn, who wrote: “A Guardian journalist has been unmasked as an Islamist extremist”. Richard Littlejohn is a long-time subscriber to this email list, and an influential columnist of sensible opinion.

BURGESS RESPONDS

The departure of Aslam from The Guardian is the first media scalp by British bloggers. In the US, it is widely recognized that Dan Rather’s departure from CBS was caused by various prominent weblogs. On his website, Scott Burgess has responded to many of the accusations in the Guardian article “Aslam targeted by bloggers” (attached below). Perhaps his strongest point is that, “given the choice between a Guardian job and membership in an organisation that calls for followers to ‘kill [Jews] wherever you find them,’ the 27 year-old Mr. Aslam chose the latter.” To read his full critical assessment of the Guardian’s recent actions, his blog can be found at dailyablution.blogs.com.

As I pointed out in a previous dispatch on Aslam, it is unlikely that The Guardian would have acted with such a defensive tone if one of their reporters was a member of the far right British National Party (which, while anti-Semitic in many ways, has not gone so far as to advocate the killing of Jews on its website.).

I attach five articles, with summaries.

-- Tom Gross

 


SUMMARIES

DILPAZIER ASLAM LEAVES GUARDIAN

“Dilpazier Aslam leaves Guardian” (By Steve Busfield, Media Guardian, July 22, 2005)

[This is the full article]

media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1534495,00.html

Trainee journalist Dilpazier Aslam had his contract with the Guardian terminated today. The move followed an internal inquiry into Aslam’s membership of the political organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. A statement said: “The Guardian now believes continuing membership of the organisation to be incompatible with his continued employment by the company.”

“Mr Aslam was asked to resign his membership but has chosen not to. The Guardian respects his right to make that decision but has regretfully concluded that it had no option but to terminate Mr Aslam’s contract with the company.”

The inquiry followed a piece written by Aslam for the Guardian’s comment pages entitled “We rock the boat”. The statement added: “The Guardian accepts that it should have explicitly mentioned Mr Aslam’s membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir at the end of his comment piece.” A correction will appear in the paper’s Corrections and Clarifications column.

Aslam said: “I am shocked by the manner in which this whole affair has been handled. My treatment throws up issues which will be of grave concern to all journalists. I am currently taking legal advice.”

 

BACKGROUND: THE GUARDIAN AND DILPAZIER ASLAM

“Background: the Guardian and Dilpazier Aslam” (The Guardian, July 22, 2005)

... Dilpazier Aslam is a 27-year-old British Muslim from Yorkshire. After university he studied journalism at Sheffield University with the help of a bursary from the Sheffield Star.

... On his 15-page application form he did not mention that he was a member of the Islamist political party, Hizb ut-Tahrir, despite being invited to describe any participation in public affairs or political campaigning.

... Subsequent to joining the Guardian, Aslam made no secret of his membership of this political party, drawing it to the attention of several colleagues and some senior editors.

On July 12 - the day it was announced that the July 7 London bombs had been placed by young British Muslims from west Yorkshire - Aslam was asked to write a piece for the comment page.

His 560-word article, “We rock the boat: today’s Muslims aren’t prepared to ignore injustice”, was published the following day. In editing the piece the Guardian did not make it clear - as it should have done - that the author was, in addition to being a Guardian trainee, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Comment editor was not aware of this fact.

... On Monday July 18 Aslam was advised that the Guardian considered that Hizb ut-Tahrir had promoted violence and anti-semitic material on its website and that membership of the organisation was not compatible with being a Guardian trainee.

The following day Aslam told the editor, Alan Rusbridger, that he was not willing to leave Hizb ut-Tahrir and that, while he personally repudiated anti-semitism, he did not consider the website material to be promoting violence or to be anti-semitic.

The matter was subsequently treated under the paper’s grievance and disciplinary procedure. Aslam was invited to a meeting with GNL’s chief executive, Carolyn McCall, at which he repeated his refusal to leave the organisation or repudiate its material.

Having considered all the circumstances Ms McCall took the view that Aslam could not remain a member of the Guardian’s trainee scheme.

The paper will carry a clarification making it clear that Aslam’s membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir should have been mentioned in the context of his July 13 article.

 

THE GUARDIAN BLAMES THE BLOGGERS

“Aslam targeted by bloggers” (By a staff reporter, Media Guardian, July 22, 2005)

Rightwing bloggers from the US, where the Guardian has a large online following, were behind the targeting last week of a trainee Guardian journalist who wrote a comment piece which they did not care for about the London bombings.

The story is a demonstration of the way the ‘blogosphere’ can be used to mount obsessively personalised attacks at high speed...

... Scott Burgess, a blogger from New Orleans who recently moved to London, spends his time indoors posting repeated attacks on the Guardian for its stance on the environment, its columnists such as Polly Toynbee, and its recent intervention in the US presidential election campaign.

He pitched into Mr Aslam, who as it happened, beat him to the traineeship on the Guardian. Googling the 27-year-old Muslim’s name, Mr Burgess picked up some articles the journalist had openly written in the past for Hizb ut-Tahrir websites and denounced him on his blogspot, The Daily Ablution, saying: “He is on record supporting a world-dominant Islamic state.”

... In the Independent on Sunday, Shiv Malik, also briefly a Guardian intern, accused the hapless Aslam of mounting “a sting by Hizb ut-Tahrir to infiltrate the mainstream media”.

And in the tabloid Sun, their attack-dog columnist, Richard Littlejohn, took the opportunity to claim: “A Guardian journalist has been unmasked as an Islamist extremist”.

Many bloggers repeated Malik’s untrue assertion - made in the Independent on Sunday - that the Guardian was “refusing to sack” Aslam.

The episode was a striking illustration of the way that blogs and bloggers can heat up the temperature and seek to settle scores - as well as raise legitimate concerns about journalism and transparency - when something awful happens in the streets of London.

 

‘GUARDIAN’ TRAINEE MAY SUE OVER SACKING

“‘Guardian’ trainee may sue over sacking” (By Andrew Johnson, The Independent, July 24, 2005)

news.independent.co.uk/media/article301242.ece

[For reasons of space, there is a summary only of this article on this dispatch – TG]

A trainee journalist at The Guardian newspaper is considering legal action after being sacked for refusing to give up membership of a radical Muslim organisation…

... The Guardian says that its comment editor was unaware of his membership. However, colleagues say he made no secret of it in the newsroom.

“There was a failure of understanding about what this organisation was,” a Guardian source said. “It just shows the media’s lack of understanding of Muslim life. It was much more Guardian cock-up than conspiracy.”

 

WE ROCK THE BOAT

“We rock the boat” (By Dilpazier Aslam, The Guardian, July 13, 2005)

... It is not the done thing to make such comparisons, but Muslims on the street do. Some 2,749 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. To discover the cost of “liberating” Iraqis you need to multiply that figure by eight, and still you will fall short of the estimated minimum of 22,787 civilian Iraqi casualties to date. But it’s not cool to say this, now that London’s skyline has also has plumed grey.

Shocked would also be to suggest that the bombings happened through no responsibility of our own. OK, the streets of London were filled with anti-war marchers, so why punish the average Londoner? But the argument that this was an essentially US-led war does not pass muster. In the Muslim world, the pond that divides Britain and America is a shallow one. And the same cry - why punish us? - is often heard from Iraqi mothers as the “collateral damage” increases daily.

... Perhaps now is the time to be honest with each other and to stop labelling the enemy with simplistic terms such as “young”, “underprivileged”, “undereducated” and perhaps even “fringe”. The don’t-rock-the-boat attitude of elders doesn’t mean the agitation wanes; it means it builds till it can be contained no more.

 



FULL ARTICLES

BACKGROUND: THE GUARDIAN AND DILPAZIER ASLAM

Background: the Guardian and Dilpazier Aslam
The Guardian today issued this briefing on the background to the story
The Guardian
July 22, 2005

www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1534499,00.html

The Guardian - in common with most news organisations - is actively exploring ways in which to increase the diversity of its staff.

Among the programmes it has run or sponsored are the Scott Trust bursaries for journalism students, the Hugo Young internship programme and a diversity training scheme. This last scheme is designed to capture applicants from a variety of backgrounds: race or ethnicity is not a factor.

In addition to these schemes, it has done much in the past year to explore and engage with the Muslim community. It has established an annual Muslim Youth Forum, in which young Muslims meet to debate and discuss political, religious, cultural and social issues. Last year’s discussions, under the title Being Muslim & British, were fully reported in the paper.

In January this year, the Guardian held a two-day conference, Islam, Multiculturalism & British Identity, involving a wide range of opinion-formers.

These debates form the basis of a book which the Guardian will shortly publish - in collaboration with the Barrow Cadbury Trust - exploring critical debates within the Muslim community and opening up these discussions to a new younger generation of participants.

The Guardian recently won the national newspaper award in the Commission for Racial Equality’s Race in the Media awards for the way the paper has challenged stereotypes and explored differences between young muslims.

Dilpazier Aslam is a 27-year-old British Muslim from Yorkshire. After university he studied journalism at Sheffield University with the help of a bursary from the Sheffield Star.

He was a journalistic trainee on the Matlock Mercury in 2004. He won the NUJ George Viner award for promising black journalists in 2003.

He was selected to be one of the Guardian trainees under its diversity scheme and began the year-long programme in October 2004, working in many editorial departments across the paper, including research, photos, graphics, Guardian North, G3s, Guardian Unlimited and the city office.

On his 15-page application form he did not mention that he was a member of the Islamist political party, Hizb ut-Tahrir, despite being invited to describe any participation in public affairs or political campaigning.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a legal organisation in this country, though banned in others. It is described in an internal Home Office briefing note as a “radical, but to date non-violent Islamist group.”

The note says of the organisation that it is “an independent political party that is active in many countries across the world. HT’s activities centre on intellectual reasoning, logic arguments and political lobbying. The party adheres to the Islamic sharia law in all aspects of its work.”

The note adds: “It probably has a few hundred members in the UK. Its ultimate aim is the establishment of an Islamic state (Caliphate), according to HT via non-violent means. It holds anti-semitic, anti-western and homophobic views.”

Different countries and organisations take varying views of the Hizb ut-Tahrir. It is banned in Russia, Germany and Holland. In this country the National Union of Students has barred Hizb ut-Tahrir from its unions, claiming the group is “responsible for supporting terrorism and publishing material that incites racial hatred”.

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) is reported by the Home Office to hold the view that “although not a serious threat at present ...it would be naive to think that if we leave them alone, they will go away. They are an organised minority group who are determined to make themselves and their albeit unrepresentative voices heard.”

Subsequent to joining the Guardian, Aslam made no secret of his membership of this political party, drawing it to the attention of several colleagues and some senior editors.

On July 12 - the day it was announced that the July 7 London bombs had been placed by young British muslims from west Yorkshire - Aslam was asked to write a piece for the comment page.

His 560-word article, “We rock the boat: today’s Muslims aren’t prepared to ignore injustice”, was published the following day. In editing the piece the Guardian did not make it clear - as it should have done - that the author was, in addition to being a Guardian trainee, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Comment editor was not aware of this fact.

After the article was published a number of people drew attention to a document Hizb ut-Tahrir posted in March 2002, on its British website, Khalifah.com, of which the Guardian was previously unaware.

It quotes a passage from the Koran [“kill them wherever you find them...”] followed by material arguing: “the Jews are a people of slander...a treacherous people... they fabricate lies and twist words from their right places.”

The effect of this juxtaposition appeared to be the incitement of violence against Jews.

The piece remained on the website until recently and is still available on other Islamist websites.

Before joining the Guardian, Aslam wrote three pieces for Khalifah.com, and was once billed as its “middle eastern correspondent”.

In October 2002, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s spokesman in Denmark, Fadi Abdelatif, was found guilty of distributing racist propaganda after handing out this document in a square in Copenhagen.

Abdelatif was given a 60-day suspended sentence. According to a BBC Newsnight report “the court rejected Abdelatif’s argument that he was merely quoting from the Koran, and the leaflet was an act of free speech.

“The court also did not accept that the leaflet was, as he argued, aimed solely at the Israeli state and not Jews generally. In particular, the court found that in ‘linking the quotes from the Koran to the subsequent description of Jews as a people characterised negatively...is an evident statement of a threat against Jews.’”

On Monday July 18 Aslam was advised that the Guardian considered that Hizb ut-Tahrir had promoted violence and anti-semitic material on its website and that membership of the organisation was not compatible with being a Guardian trainee.

The following day Aslam told the editor, Alan Rusbridger, that he was not willing to leave Hizb ut-Tahrir and that, while he personally repudiated anti-semitism, he did not consider the website material to be promoting violence or to be anti-semitic.

The matter was subsequently treated under the paper’s grievance and disciplinary procedure. Aslam was invited to a meeting with GNL’s chief executive, Carolyn McCall, at which he repeated his refusal to leave the organisation or repudiate its material.

Having considered all the circumstances Ms McCall took the view that Aslam could not remain a member of the Guardian’s trainee scheme.

The paper will carry a clarification making it clear that Aslam’s membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir should have been mentioned in the context of his July 13 article.

 

THE GUARDIAN BLAMES THE BLOGGERS

Aslam targeted by bloggers
By a staff reporter
Media Guardian
July 22, 2005

media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1534497,00.html

Rightwing bloggers from the US, where the Guardian has a large online following, were behind the targeting last week of a trainee Guardian journalist who wrote a comment piece which they did not care for about the London bombings.

The story is a demonstration of the way the ‘blogosphere’ can be used to mount obsessively personalised attacks at high speed.

Within hours, Dilpazier Aslam was being accused on the internet of “violence” and belonging to a “terrorist organisation” - both completely untrue charges.

One blogger appealed for “some loyal Briton to saw off your head and ship it to me”. Another accused Aslam of being guilty of “accessory before the fact to murder.”

These ravings were posted alongside more legitimate questions as to whether a newspaper should employ a reporter who belongs to a controversial political group linked to the promotion of anti-semitic views.

Aslam’s comment piece was about the attitudes of angry young Muslims in the north of England and headlined “We rock the boat: today’s Muslims aren’t prepared to ignore injustice”.

It did not mention that the author was a member of the radical but non-violent Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, proscribed in Germany and Holland as anti-semitic.

Scott Burgess, a blogger from New Orleans who recently moved to London, spends his time indoors posting repeated attacks on the Guardian for its stance on the environment, its columnists such as Polly Toynbee, and its recent intervention in the US presidential election campaign.

He pitched into Mr Aslam, who as it happened, beat him to the traineeship on the Guardian. Googling the 27-year-old Muslim’s name, Mr Burgess picked up some articles the journalist had openly written in the past for Hizb ut-Tahrir websites and denounced him on his blogspot, The Daily Ablution, saying: “He is on record supporting a world-dominant Islamic state.”

Another blogger, Laban Tall, wrote enthusiastically that Burgess’ coup “has resounded across the blogging universe like a shockwave from a supernova”.

He said: “I bet the Guardian wish they’d given him the job now, not Mr Aslam. Scott applied for the job in June 2004. Mr Aslam got it. They say revenge is a dish best eaten cold.”

Mr Burgess fished out a website article written by Mr Aslam before September 11 for Hizb ut-Tahrir. He quoted one line: “Establishment of Khilafah [the worldwide Islamic caliphate] is our only solution, to fight fire with fire, the state of Israel versus the Khilafah state.”

A fellow blogger, Dsquared, promptly accused him of using quotes out of context. “It is more than four years old, written when the author was a teenager, before 9/11 and during a really nasty episode early in the intifada. How many people posting on this blog would like to have their teenage scribblings used as an assessment of their politics as an adult?

“The way you’ve used these excerpts is a bit spintastic and if this is the worst you can dig up, I don’t think the Guardian can be blamed for not rumbling him.”

But meanwhile, New Jersey undergraduate Joe Malchow [aka Joe’s Dartblog] was writing on his own blog: “Guardian employs known member of terrorist organisation.”

Fantasies like this zoomed round the world and soon seeped into the paper’s mainstream rivals.

Perhaps the most extreme blog was posted by “dreadpundit”, a right-wing New Yorker using the name “Bluto”. He wrote: “Okay, Dilpazier, I’ve decided to bow to your ‘logic’ - sauce for the goose and all that. That’s why I’m issuing a secular fatwah and asking for some loyal Briton to saw off your head and ship it to me (use Fed-Ex, please, so I can get a morning delivery, and do remember the dry ice, also, a videotape of the “execution”).”

In the Independent on Sunday, Shiv Malik, also briefly a Guardian intern, accused the hapless Aslam of mounting “a sting by Hizb ut-Tahrir to infiltrate the mainstream media”.

And in the tabloid Sun, their attack-dog columnist, Richard Littlejohn, took the opportunity to claim: “A Guardian journalist has been unmasked as an Islamist extremist”.

Many bloggers repeated Malik’s untrue assertion - made in the Independent on Sunday - that the Guardian was “refusing to sack” Aslam.

The episode was a striking illustration of the way that blogs and bloggers can heat up the temperature and seek to settle scores - as well as raise legitimate concerns about journalism and transparency - when something awful happens in the streets of London.

 

WE ROCK THE BOAT

We rock the boat
Today’s Muslims aren’t prepared to ignore injustice

Comment
By Dilpazier Aslam
The Guardian
July 13, 2005

www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1527323,00.html

If I’m asked about 7/7, I – a Yorkshire lad, born and bred – will respond first by giving an out-clause to being labelled a terrorist lover. I think what happened in London was a sad day and not the way to express your political anger.

Then there’s the “but”. If, as police announced yesterday, four men (at least three from Yorkshire) blew themselves up in the name of Islam, then please let us do ourselves a favour and not act shocked.

Shocked would be to imply that we were unaware of the imminent danger, when in fact Sir John Stevens, the then Metropolitan police commissioner, warned us last year that an attack was inevitable.

Shocked would be to suggest we didn’t appreciate that when Falluja was flattened, the people under it were dead but not forgotten - long after we had moved on to reading more interesting headlines about the Olympics. It is not the done thing to make such comparisons, but Muslims on the street do. Some 2,749 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. To discover the cost of “liberating” Iraqis you need to multiply that figure by eight, and still you will fall short of the estimated minimum of 22,787 civilian Iraqi casualties to date. But it’s not cool to say this, now that London’s skyline has also has plumed grey.

Shocked would also be to suggest that the bombings happened through no responsibility of our own. OK, the streets of London were filled with anti-war marchers, so why punish the average Londoner? But the argument that this was an essentially US-led war does not pass muster. In the Muslim world, the pond that divides Britain and America is a shallow one. And the same cry - why punish us? - is often heard from Iraqi mothers as the “collateral damage” increases daily.

Shocked would be to say that we don’t understand how, in the green hills of Yorkshire, a group of men given all the liberties they could have wished for could do this.

The Muslim community is no monolithic whole. Yet there are some common features. Second- and third-generation Muslims are without the don’t-rock-the-boat attitude that restricted our forefathers. We’re much sassier with our opinions, not caring if the boat rocks or not.

Which is why the young get angry with that breed of Muslim “community leader” who remains silent while anger is seething on the streets.

Earlier this year I attended a mosque in Leeds for Friday prayers. It was in the month of Ramadan, when Islamic fervour is at its most impassioned, yet in the sermon, to a crowd of hundreds - many of whom were from Iraq - Falluja was not referred to once; not even in the cupped-hands prayers after the sermon was over.

I prayed my Eid prayer in a mosque in Sheffield and, though most there were sickened and angry about events in Iraq, the imam chose not to mention Falluja either. We “youngsters” - some now in our 40s - had seen it before. This was deliberate silence, in case the boat rocked.

Perhaps now is the time to be honest with each other and to stop labelling the enemy with simplistic terms such as “young”, “underprivileged”, “undereducated” and perhaps even “fringe”. The don’t-rock-the-boat attitude of elders doesn’t mean the agitation wanes; it means it builds till it can be contained no more.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.