The newspaper article, which was published in July, was brought to the attention of press regulation body Ipso by MEND and other Muslim organisations. The Mail on Sunday headlined the article “Welcome to east London: Muslim gang slashes tyres of immigration-raid van before officers showered with eggs from high rise” though there was no evidence to substantiate the claim a “Muslim gang” was responsible for the attack, as we pointed out to the regular citing a clause 1 breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
According to the original misleading article, which has since been corrected, “Muslim youths” carried out an attack on vans used for an immigration raid in Shadwell in the same week that David Cameron had called on the Muslim community to support the “British way of life”, suggesting that the refusal of local residents to come to the assistance of the immigration officers was in some way linked to the Prime Minister’s “appeal for support from the Muslim community in the effort to combat extremism”.
Furthermore, the premise for the article appeared to be based on two casual observations; the opinion of an unnamed witness who said he thought the perpetrators were “local Muslim hoodies” and data from the 2011 census which, according to the Mail on Sunday, pointed to “more than half the population of Shadwell being Muslim”. The article also referenced tweets posted by individuals with Muslim sounding names that mocked the incident as “evidence” that “Muslims” were behind the attack.
Following complaints to the regulator, the Mail on Sunday agreed to correct the story and remove references to Muslims. The correction stated: “An article on July 26 said a gang of Muslim youths was responsible for damaging Home Office immigration enforcement vehicles in Shadwell, east London, in the week the prime minister appealed to Muslims to help combat extremism. Muslim readers have asked to point out that the youths’ religion was unclear and, in any case, irrelevant to the story. We apologise for any offence caused.”
The apology by the Mail on Sunday follows an apology published last month by the Sunday Times to Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad after they falsely reported that he praised Osama bin Laden in an article he wrote in May 2011 entitled “Advice for Muslims on the Death of Osama bin Laden” and that he had justified the killing of innocent civilians by terrorists as “collateral damage”.
As the new regulator, IMPRESS, revives the prospect of robust press regulation, as recommended by Lord Justice Leveson, one can only hope the press will be more careful about publishing unsubstantiated claims which fuels the drip-feed of negative media output on Islam and Muslims.