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British apologies to Muslims aren’t free

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It is better for an apology to made late rather than never. But there is a big difference between an apology made by a person or institution after discovering they had made a mistake and an apology based on a court order. Yet this is what happened with two major British institutions, the Daily Telegraph and the British government.

The first apology was made after nearly two years of litigation, as the Daily Telegraph was forced to apologise to Mohammed Kozbar, trustee and general secretary of the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. He is also vice president of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB).

The apology was as a result of an article that was published attacking Kozbar and Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that the two men have blamed the UK for creating Daesh. There were other accusations made against the MAB vice president, including claims that he called for the destruction of Israel.

The court ruling in favour of Kozbar also included compensation amounting to £30,000 for damages sustained as a result of such defamation. It also stipulated that the article be taken down from the newspaper’s website.

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I believe that the newspaper will think a thousand times in the future before publishing such slanderous material against Muslim public figures, especially since this article was not in the context of an investigative news report or a news article with proven facts, but rather an opinion piece.

The newspaper could have saved itself this money and chaos if it had addressed the issue immediately after publishing the article, but unfortunately many Muslim issues have become fodder in right-wing media outlets. This has allowed many media outlets to show a blatant disregard for what it publishes on such issues.

The second apology was made by the British government itself, represented by Prime Minister Theresa May, who declared that her government unreservedly apologises for Britain’s actions against Libya political activist Abdel Hakim Belhaj.

The UK was involved in his arrest, along with his wife, when he was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and handed them over to one of Gaddafi’s prisons in 2004 where they were tortured. This apology is very significant, as it includes a confession to the British intelligence agencies committing heinous acts, i.e. the abduction of a man and his wife in a foreign country, Thailand and holding them in an American prison before handing them over to Gaddafi’s Libya.

These apologies are undoubtedly an important step in identifying officials responsible for many of the material and moral violations suffered by many Muslims, but they were not made out of the goodness of the institution or government’s hearts. They were the fruit of a legal and media battle that lasted years, and therefore, they are not free apologies.

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They are apologies under the sword of law and the judiciary. It is now important to pay attention to what comes after these apologies, as there certainly are articles published by the Daily Telegraph that is offensive to Islam and Muslims, but those affected by them have not had the financial or administrative means to sue the newspaper.

There are also roles played by the British intelligence that certainly are questionable. In order for an apology to have value and meaning, it must result in changes in the policies of these institutions. Such change will not be made overnight, but after an accumulation of such steps and their utilisation politically and in the media.

It is not true that the West conspires against Islam and Muslims in general, but there are Western parties that are indeed investing in creating a hostile atmosphere towards Islam and Muslims, and wants to shape Islam to suit their claims. This type of civil struggle must be used to confront such parties. Such issues are not factional and exclusively serve the interests of Muslims, but rather are mainly a human issue that affect other parts of the community, such as the black people.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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