UK Guardian diversity program backfires with internship of Hizb ut Tahrir member whose London bombing article linked to Khalifah website
HT member threatens to sue Guardian over firing
Background: the Guardian and Dilpazier Aslam
Among the programmes it has run or sponsored are the Scott Trust bursaries for journalism students, the Hugo Young internship programme and a diversity training scheme. This last scheme is designed to capture applicants from a variety of backgrounds: race or ethnicity is not a factor.
In addition to these schemes, it has done much in the past year to explore and engage with the Muslim community. It has established an annual Muslim Youth Forum, in which young Muslims meet to debate and discuss political, religious, cultural and social issues. Last year's discussions, under the title Being Muslim & British, were fully reported in the paper.
In January this year, the Guardian held a two-day conference, Islam, Multiculturalism & British Identity, involving a wide range of opinion-formers.
These debates form the basis of a book which the Guardian will shortly publish - in collaboration with the Barrow Cadbury Trust - exploring critical debates within the Muslim community and opening up these discussions to a new younger generation of participants.
The Guardian recently won the national newspaper award in the Commission for Racial Equality's Race in the Media awards for the way the paper has challenged stereotypes and explored differences between young muslims.
Dilpazier Aslam is a 27-year-old British Muslim from Yorkshire. After university he studied journalism at Sheffield University with the help of a bursary from the Sheffield Star.
He was a journalistic trainee on the Matlock Mercury in 2004. He won the NUJ George Viner award for promising black journalists in 2003.
He was selected to be one of the Guardian trainees under its diversity scheme and began the year-long programme in October 2004, working in many editorial departments across the paper, including research, photos, graphics, Guardian North, G3s, Guardian Unlimited and the city office.
On his 15-page application form he did not mention that he was a member of the Islamist political party, Hizb ut-Tahrir, despite being invited to describe any participation in public affairs or political campaigning.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a legal organisation in this country, though banned in others. It is described in an internal Home Office briefing note as a "radical, but to date non-violent Islamist group."
The note says of the organisation that it is "an independent political party that is active in many countries across the world. HT's activities centre on intellectual reasoning, logic arguments and political lobbying. The party adheres to the Islamic sharia law in all aspects of its work."
The note adds: "It probably has a few hundred members in the UK. Its ultimate aim is the establishment of an Islamic state (Caliphate), according to HT via non-violent means. It holds anti-semitic, anti-western and homophobic views."
Different countries and organisations take varying views of the Hizb ut-Tahrir. It is banned in Russia, Germany and Holland. In this country the National Union of Students has barred Hizb ut-Tahrir from its unions, claiming the group is "responsible for supporting terrorism and publishing material that incites racial hatred".
The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) is reported by the Home Office to hold the view that "although not a serious threat at present ... it would be naive to think that if we leave them alone, they will go away. They are an organised minority group who are determined to make themselves and their albeit unrepresentative voices heard."
Subsequent to joining the Guardian, Aslam made no secret of his membership of this political party, drawing it to the attention of several colleagues and some senior editors.
On July 12 - the day it was announced that the July 7 London bombs had been placed by young British muslims from west Yorkshire - Aslam was asked to write a piece for the comment page.
His 560-word article, "We rock the boat: today's Muslims aren't prepared to ignore injustice", was published the following day. In editing the piece the Guardian did not make it clear - as it should have done - that the author was, in addition to being a Guardian trainee, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Comment editor was not aware of this fact.
After the article was published a number of people drew attention to a document Hizb ut-Tahrir posted in March 2002, on its British website, Khilafah.com, of which the Guardian was previously unaware.
It quotes a passage from the Koran ["kill them wherever you find them ..."] followed by material arguing: "the Jews are a people of slander ... a treacherous people ... they fabricate lies and twist words from their right places."
The effect of this juxtaposition appeared to be the incitement of violence against Jews. The piece remained on the website until recently and is still available on other Islamist websites.
Before joining the Guardian, Aslam wrote three pieces for Khilafah.com, and was once billed as its "middle eastern correspondent".
In October 2002, Hizb ut-Tahrir's spokesman in Denmark, Fadi Abdelatif, was found guilty of distributing racist propaganda after handing out this document in a square in Copenhagen.
Abdelatif was given a 60-day suspended sentence. According to a BBC Newsnight report "the court rejected Abdelatif's argument that he was merely quoting from the Koran, and the leaflet was an act of free speech.
"The court also did not accept that the leaflet was, as he argued, aimed solely at the Israeli state and not Jews generally. In particular, the court found that in 'linking the quotes from the Koran to the subsequent description of Jews as a people characterised negatively ... is an evident statement of a threat against Jews.'"
On Monday July 18 Aslam was advised that the Guardian considered that Hizb ut-Tahrir had promoted violence and anti-semitic material on its website and that membership of the organisation was not compatible with being a Guardian trainee.
The following day Aslam told the editor, Alan Rusbridger, that he was not willing to leave Hizb ut-Tahrir and that, while he personally repudiated anti-semitism, he did not consider the website material to be promoting violence or to be anti-semitic.
The matter was subsequently treated under the paper's grievance and disciplinary procedure. Aslam was invited to a meeting with GNL's chief executive, Carolyn McCall, at which he repeated his refusal to leave the organisation or repudiate its material.
Having considered all the circumstances Ms McCall took the view that Aslam could not remain a member of the Guardian's trainee scheme.
The paper will carry a clarification making it clear that Aslam's membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir should have been mentioned in the context of his July 13 article.
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LONDON - The sacked Muslim journalist Dilpazier Aslam, who was let go by The Guardian on Friday after bloggers exposed his links to radical anti-Semitic Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir were exposed, is taking the newspaper to court over his dismissal.
His links to the extreme Hizb ut-Tahrir were revealed by bloggers, including Scott Burgess and Harry's Place, last week after Aslam wrote a July 13 article about the suicide bombers in The Guardian. The piece referred to the 7/7 suicide bombings as "sassy".
Following the revelation of Aslam's links with Hizb ut-Tahrir, The Guardian launched an internal investigation into Aslam, who it said did not reveal he was a member of the Islamist political party when he joined the paper as a trainee despite being invited to do so.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is legal in the UK, but it is banned in many other countries around the world, and the Home Office does say that the party, as well as having the ultimate aim of establishing "an Islamic state [Caliphate], holds anti-Semitic and anti-western views".
In a statement, The Guardian said that Aslam had made no secret of his membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, but the paper said it should have revealed his political affiliations when he wrote the July 13 article about the suicide bombers.
After its internal investigation, The Guardian said Aslam was told that it considered that Hizb ut-Tahrir had promoted violence and anti-Semitic material and that membership of the organisation was not compatible with being a Guardian trainee.
Since learning of the paper's decision, Hizb ut-Tahrir member Aslam has said he is considering legal action against the paper for the way he has been treated.
"I am shocked by the manner in which this whole affair has been handled. My treatment throws up issues which will be of grave concern to all journalists. I am currently taking legal advice," Aslam said.
Before being asked to leave the paper, Aslam was invited to meet editor Alan Rusbridger and Guardian Newspaper's chief executive Carolyn McCall, where he refused to leave Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Having considered all the circumstances, McCall took the view that Aslam could not remain a member of The Guardian's trainee scheme. The paper said it would carry a clarification making it clear that Aslam's membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir should have been mentioned in the context of his July 13 article.
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