Jeremy Corbyn with Mohammed Kozbar last summer following the far-right terrorist attack near the north London mosque. Photograph: Hannah Mckay/Reuters.
The Sunday Telegraph has been made to pay “substantial damages” to the general secretary of Finsbury Park mosque after it falsely portrayed him as a supporter of “violent lslamist extremism”, as part of yet another attempt to smear and discredit the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Mohammed Kozbar, the vice-chair of the Muslim Association of Britain. This was an attempt by the Conservative Telegraph to discredit someone using “guilt by association” – a type of ad hominem fallacy. Use of this type of association fallacy in the media is often used to generate fear as well as to discredit someone.
On 13 March 2016 the newspaper published an article headlined: Corbyn and the mosque leader who blames the UK for Isil.” The story tried to connect the Labour leader to “extremist” views, which the Telegraph alleged were held by Mohammed Kozbar, who also runs the mosque in Corbyn’s Islington North constituency. The Telegraph claimed that Kozbar “blames Britain for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [Isil]” and had “called for the destruction of Israel and appeared to praise the recent wave of terrorist stabbings in that country”.
Kozbar issued a libel claim in relation to the article, written by Andrew Gilligan, and a UK court ruled that it had defamed him. A statement, issued by Kozbar and his solicitor, was shared on Twitter by the Muslim Council of Britain’s Miqdaad Versi, who has himself challenged inaccuracies around Islam in the national press.
Kozbar said that he “regretted the lengthy and attritional process” rather than “the newspaper simply apologising and admitting fault.” He added: “I felt that a defamation claim was the only option in order to protect my community at the Finsbury Park Mosque from continued Islamophobic media coverage.”
Kozbar added that he was “falsely portrayed by the newspaper as an individual who supported the use of violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict”.
He said: “I was also falsely described as someone who blamed the UK for Isil. The truth is that I abhor and condemn the use of violence in any situation.”
Kozbar’s lawyer, Jonathan Coad, who took up the case after Kozbar was unsatisfied with a ruling by the press regulator Ipso, said: “While there are many responsible elements of the press, the demonising of Muslims in some parts of it is incredibly destructive.
“These legal proceedings should never have been necessary. The article should not have been published.”
Kozbar said that the article was defamatory and the Sunday Telegraph has now removed the article from its website, published a ruling accepting the article was defamatory, and paid damages understood to be in the region of £30,000 to settle the case. This does not include the newspaper’s costs.
“It was not just myself who was the target of this article, it was Jeremy Corbyn,” said Kozbar, following the verdict. “The aim was to damage the reputation of Jeremy and make his progress with the Labour party more difficult.”
In a correction statement issued by the Telegraph on 9 May, the newspaper said: “The Telegraph has accepted an offer to settle the claim by payment of substantial damages and his costs to be agreed.”
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