Far right ‘posed as journalists to spread anti-Muslim lies’

A Muslim cleric leaves the Regent’s Park Mosque in London after attending a meeting called by the Muslim Council of Britain. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 May 2020

Far right ‘posed as journalists to spread anti-Muslim lies’

  • Some extreme right-wing groups are trying to use the pandemic to create division

LONDON: Far-right activists in the UK are posing as journalists to spread fake news about Muslims breaking coronavirus lockdown restrictions during Ramadan, a prominent British imam has said.

Far-right extremists are exploiting the lockdown “to spread hatred of Muslims,” Qari Asim, chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board and the government’s adviser on Islamophobia, told The Telegraph newspaper.

“We’ve had reports that people have been going around mosques (in West Yorkshire) pretending to be independent journalists and talking to people, and effectively again trying to gather information and trying to make some footage saying Muslims are still congregating,” said Asim, the imam at Makkah Mosque in the northern city of Leeds.

Churches, mosques and other places of worship have been closed since the lockdown began in March to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. The restrictions have coincided with Muslims celebrating Ramadan.

Under normal circumstances, Muslims would visit their local mosque, fast during the day and share iftar. But while this is not possible, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has urged people to celebrate iftars over online video call software.

There have been cases of social media posts alleging that Muslims are ignoring the rules to gather in the evenings and flout restrictions on funerals.

“It’s extremely disappointing that even during such unprecedented times of national emergency, some people have continued to spread hatred of Muslims and unsubstantiated claims that an increase in coronavirus cases will happen during Ramadan because most Muslims tend to have social gatherings,” the MCB said.

“Some extreme right-wing groups are trying to use the pandemic to create division. So they’re targeting Muslims, in a way which is deplorable … We call on people to stand united and say that such unsubstantiated claims are fake news and should be challenged robustly.”

Asim said Makkah Mosque was closed before the lockdown, but “there are still some people going around and spreading some videos and images to say that Muslims are still congregating — but those images and videos were from well before the pandemic.”

Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

Updated 05 August 2020

Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

  • The government said the documentary tarnished the image of the country
  • Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent”

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s police chief insisted Wednesday investigations into an Al Jazeera documentary are being conducted “professionally” and rejected concerns about worsening media freedom, a day after the broadcaster’s office was searched.
Authorities are investigating the news network’s program “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” after the government was angered by its critical look at the treatment of migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials on Tuesday searched the Qatar-based broadcaster’s Kuala Lumpur office and seized two computers, sparking fresh anger from Al Jazeera and rights groups and adding to concerns about media independence in Malaysia.
But the country’s Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said the search by police and communications ministry officials was carried out “very professionally.”
“It was not a military kind of action taken by the police,” he told AFP in an interview.
He added that Al Jazeera staff were “informed earlier of our intent to be there. They were even asked which devices were used. They cooperated.”
The search came after seven Al Jazeera journalists were questioned by police last month in connection with the documentary.
Abdul Hamid said the probe would be wrapped up soon, after which the attorney-general will decide whether to bring charges.
But the government insists the documentary — which focused on alleged mistreatment of migrants when they were rounded up during a coronavirus lockdown in May — tarnished the country’s image.
Authorities say the round-up was necessary to protect the public from the virus.
Al Jazeera is being probed for alleged sedition, defamation and transmitting offensive content, but it has stood by the documentary and insists the reporting was impartial.
Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent” and insisted journalists in Malaysia were still free to do their jobs.
But he also urged international media to “be responsible,” calling them not to “write something... that is inaccurate.”