The Muslim Council of Britain's Little Problem
Miqdaad Versi and Dodgy Facts
When considering the roles that various people worldwide play in advancing various causes, a lot of attention is paid to the people who blow themselves up. A fair amount of time is spent on the victims of such people. But relatively little time is spent focusing on the people whose role is clearly to tire everyone to death.
In this regard, it is worth introducing to a wider audience the existence of a man called Miqdaad Versi. This man works for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an organisation which enjoyed a certain amount of access to the British government after the Satanic Verses affair, 9/11, 7/7 and other atrocities. During those years, they presented themselves in the manner of debt collectors: standing beside a big bruiser stressing how sorry they were to have to demand this payment, but that they were only just holding back their big, angry friend.
Unfortunately for them, during the last Labour government in Britain, the MCB's behaviour and beliefs were exposed by the more progressive Muslim voices who were by then coming along, and also by a wider society which had become wise to the tricks of these self-appointed "community leaders." The Labour government took a strong exception to the MCB's then-Deputy Secretary General, Daud Abdullah, signing the 'Istanbul Declaration'. As Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said at the time, it "supports violence against foreign forces -- which could include British naval personnel... and advocating attacks on Jewish communities all around the world."
In the years since then, the MCB has had a problem. Its self-appointed task is to act as an interlocutor with the government, but the government will not speak to them, a state of affairs which leaves the leadership of the MCB with a lot of time on their hands. Happily, the group's Assistant Secretary General, Miqdaad Versi, has found a way to fill that time. Last year he hit the headlines in Britain for an especially observant piece of mid-morning television watching. While filling up his day, Mr Versi noticed that a piece of paper, on which the lead character in a children's cartoon, called "Fireman Sam," at one point slipped, appeared to resemble a page of Arabic writing.
By watching the clip over and over again, Mr Versi discovered that the page of writing resembled a passage from chapter 67 of the Quran. As a result, the makers of "Fireman Sam" were forced to issue a statement assuring the world that a full-scale investigation was underway into how this happened, and that, in addition:
"We are taking immediate action to remove this episode from circulation and we are reviewing our content production procedures to ensure this never happens again."Then last month -- thanks to the BBC -- we got an update on Miqdaad Versi's activities. In January, the Victoria Derbyshire show ran a special feature on Mr Versi. The article -- "The man correcting stories about Muslims" -- portrayed Versi as an intrepid crusader for truth. In particular, it focussed on his work of systematically and continually complaining to the UK's new press regulator, Ipso, whenever he thinks that a story in the British media contains inaccurate reporting on Islam or Muslims.
The BBC report described, for instance, how Versi had managed to get a major correction from the Sunday Times. In a front-page piece on a recent report into the state of integration in Britain by Dame Louise Casey, the Sunday Times had run the headline "Enclaves of Islam see UK as 75% Muslim." The contents of the report were wholly accurate -- the headline writer at the Sunday Times had merely wrongly extrapolated one point in the story and wrongly recounted the fact that pupils at one school featured in Casey's report had said they thought the UK was between 50 and 90 percent "Asian." The Sunday Times subsequently ran a correction. On another occasion, Versi had managed to get a correction from the Daily Mail which he presented as "huge." The correction was that in a story about the President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, the paper had reported that Bouattia had said that young Muslims were going to join ISIS "because of government cuts to education" and had referred to a Birmingham university as a "Zionist outpost" because "it had a large Jewish society."
Versi's complaint about this piece centred on claiming that Bouattia had not said that cuts were the "only" reason people were joining ISIS, and that her suggestion that a British university was a "Zionist outpost" was not "because" of its large Jewish society. Both claims were highly disputable. Versi also complained that a use of the word "groups" should have been the singular, "group." On the basis of this, the Daily Mail issued an apology, allowing supporters of the radical National Union of Students' (NUS) President to pretend that she was the victim of a smear campaign by self-confessedly inaccurate media reports rather than a nasty anti-Semite whose back was being covered by a full-time pedant with dodgy facts.
One interesting aspect of Mr Versi's work, and the hagiographic write-up he received from the BBC, is that Versi is not immune from a bit of inaccuracy himself. He often seems, in fact, given to a considerable level of inaccuracy himself.
On the day that the BBC were giving Versi his rave review, he was on social media sharing an untrue story claiming that the government's Prevent counter-radicalisation strategy was forcing King's College London to monitor all student emails. The story was wholly bogus (KCL's policy of reserving the right to monitor all emails on their system came a year before such a policy became a legal duty). But the fact that Versi was sharing this story was typical of the double-ledger he runs when it comes to facts. He is happy to apply rigorous standards to others, but holds exceedingly lax standards himself, so long as he can carry on his own campaigning work against the UK government's counter-terrorism and counter-extremism programmes -- or continue to exercise his own low standards in trying to cover for people who are designated as "extremists" by the UK government . Or indeed, in belonging to an organisation correctly identified as an "enabler" of prejudice against the minority Ahmadiyya community.
None of this came up in the BBC's report, nor would any observer have particularly expected it to. The story of this double book-keeper would certainly make a more interesting story. But it would be less exciting than the story of the lone, caped crusader whose meaningless pedantry appears to be exercised in the hope of boring everyone else into submission. Sadly for Miqdaad Versi, the British public's security concerns are not caused by very slightly inaccurate media reports but rather by the deadly accurate bomb blasts and shooting attacks around the world -- attacks which nobody needs to make up and nobody can fully cover over.
Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England.