A rightwing thinktank which claimed to have uncovered extremist literature on sale at dozens of British mosques was last night accused of basing a report on fabricated evidence.
The report by Policy Exchange alleged that books condoning violent jihad and encouraging hatred of Christians, Jews and gays were being sold in a quarter of the 100 mosques visited. But BBC2’s Newsnight said examination of receipts provided by the researchers to verify their purchases showed some had been written by the same person – even though they purported to come from different mosques. Several receipts also misspelled the names or addresses of the mosques where the books were supposedly sold.
The report, the Hijacking of British Islam, was based on the work of four teams of two researchers each who visited 100 mosques. They claimed to have found the controversial material in bookshops attached to 25 mosques, including one at Regent’s Park, London, and others in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Oxford and High Wycombe.
Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Policy Exchange produced a report that was given a lot of publicity, and Newsnight deserve credit for exposing the incredibly shoddy and dubious methodology that Policy Exchange have resorted to. It would seem that Policy Exchange had already decided what they wanted to say about mosques and just went out to find or should I say invent the evidence to justify their prejudices.”
For Osama Saeed’s comments, see Rolled Up Trousers, 12 December 2007
The Newsnight investigation concentrated on mosques in and around London but, as Osama points out, questions about the credibility of the Hijacking of British Islam report were raised at the time by the Edinburgh Central Mosque – where nobody had come across the literature that Policy Exchange claimed to have discovered on their premises.
For some useful background on Dean Godson and Policy Exchange, see Tom Griffin’s article at SpinWatch.