In the Sunday Times David Leppard reveals that Sabin Khan, a senior adviser to home secretary Theresa May, has been suspended for opposing May’s decision to ban Zakir Naik from entering the UK. Apparently Khan’s offence was to describe this stupid and ignorant decision, entirely accurately, as “a huge error of judgment”. Leppard reports that Charles Farr, Khan’s boss at the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (the Home Office directorate responsible for counter-terrorism in the UK), also opposed the ban.
Of course, both Leppard and the Sunday Times have an axe to grind here, as it was Leppard’s misleading and scaremongering article (“Muslim preacher of hate is let into Britain”, Sunday Times, 30 May 2010) that provided the basis for the ban on Dr Naik.
A statement by the Islamic Research Foundation rebutting the Home Office’s charges against Dr Naik can be consulted here. It points out that the apparently damning quote produced by Leppard and echoed by the Home Office, that “every Muslim should be a terrorist”, was actually in defence of police repression of violent criminals – a stance on law and order that you might have thought would endear Dr Naik to a Tory home secretary.
Leppard reports that Charles Farr welcomed the IRF’s response as “a good strong statement”. Unfortunately, instead of reassessing the Naik ban and rectifying her mistake, it would appear that May prefers to discipline her critics.
Home Office row over terror aide
By David Leppard
Sunday Times, 1 August 2010
A senior adviser to Theresa May, the home secretary, on Islamic extremism was suspended yesterday after criticising her for “a huge error of judgment” over her wish to bar radical preachers from Britain.
A disciplinary inquiry was launched after court papers showed Sabin Khan, the adviser, had let slip that she and another top aide were “gutted and mortified” by May’s decision to ban a controversial Muslim preacher from Britain.
Khan, a key figure in the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), was suspended after being challenged by officials about the documents, which suggested that she and Charles Farr, her boss, had privately criticised the ban.
The disclosure of the court papers, obtained by The Sunday Times, will embarrass both May and Farr, the OSCT’s director-general and the most senior security mandarin in Whitehall. At issue is May’s decision in June to ban Zakir Naik, a controversial Indian-born preacher who appears on his satellite channel, Peace TV.
May barred him after he was described as a “hate-monger” and misogynist by moderate Muslims and a Tory MP. Naik has rebutted the charges and is taking legal action against May, saying the ban breaches his human rights.
Papers he is filing in the High Court allege that Khan told Naik’s team that she and Farr – who view the preacher as a moderate – both opposed the ban. She purportedly said they would do “all they could to enable and encourage Dr Naik’s entry to the UK”.
Farr asked the preacher to provide a rebuttal to claims that he had said “every Muslim should be a terrorist” and that Osama Bin Laden was not behind the 9/11 attacks. In an email, Farr described the reply as “a good strong statement”.
May’s ban appeared to surprise Farr. In an email to Khan later, Naik’s office wrote: “It is heartening to know that both you and Charles Farr are ‘gutted and mortified’.” Khan is then said to have called Naik’s office saying the email “could get me and Charles into serious trouble”.