Just by writing this I know I am falling into the trap of giving Mo Ansar the publicity hit he craves. But I am afraid someone needs to stand up to him and seeing as though he spread blatant lies about me and made a vexatious complaint to Hampshire Police and Tell Mama accusing me of Islamaphobia and much else besides, I can’t just sit back and remain silent on the matter.
I wrote much of this blogpost several weeks ago, but I have left it until now to publish it because I needed to be sure that Hampshire Police and Tell Mama would dismiss the complaint, and this they have both now done. It is now important that I put all this on the record so people can judge for themselves what happened, who was culpable, and if Mo Ansar merits ever being invited on media programmes again.
This all stems from a twitter exchange between Nicky Campbell and Mo Ansar on 22 March which I got involved with. It concerned the chairman of the Birmingham Mosque (who has since sadly died) who had made intemperate remarks likening gays to murderers and paedophiles. Mo Ansar appeared to be defending him on the basis he was an old man. I asked him directly if he agreed with his views, as I would have found that very surprising given his self styled “thoroughly modern muslim” stances. Someone has very helpfully captured the exchange and what happened next. So take a moment to dip out and read the full exchange so you can make your own mind up about whether what I wrote constituted anything anti-Islamic.
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There are many other subsequent tweets from Mr Ansar where he accuses me of anti-muslim bigotry, Islamophobia and he even inferred on Newsnight that I picked on him because of the colour of his face on his Twitter profile. For someone who professes to be a “political and social commentator” he has a remarkable lack of understanding of the laws of libel. He also has a remarkably thin skin for someone who inhabits a world where criticism (fair or unfounded) is something everyone – including me – has to take. But it seems Mr Ansar likes to dish it out but can’t take it. He delights in making reference to my age. In the exchange above he refers to “retirement” and in another exchange he calls me “old timer”. I laughed, thinking to myself that one day he will also reach the ripe old age of 51. Perhaps I should have reported him to the police for injuring my feelings. Except I’m not that petty.
What Mr Ansar is really objecting to is that I won’t have him on my radio show any longer. And looking back I wonder why I fell into the trap of having him on in the first place. In fact I know why. Because he invented himself as a ‘gob on a stick’ rent-a-quote commentator who news shows go to because he’s the easy option. We know he’ll always say yes. And when you’re setting up a topic often at short notice, that’s worth its weight in gold.
Sometime in the second half of last year we booked him to take part in a studio discussion. He didn’t turn up. I regard that as fairly unforgiveable and told him so on Twitter. To be fair to him he apologised and then spent the next few weeks tweeting me and my producer begging to come on to the show. It got embarrassing to be honest. It was then that I started to do a little research into him and came to the conclusion that there was no substance to him and that we would do better not to have him on again. My producers had already separately come to the same conclusion.
We asked ourselves the question: Who does he actually represent? He calls himself a “community activist”. Which community does he represent? Most muslims I have asked the question have laughed when I have suggested maybe he represents them. He calls himself an “educator” but when asked by others can’t produce any evidence of having been involved in education at any level. He calls himself a “theologian”, but there is no evidence to support his claim. And so it goes on.
Anyway, back to the events at the end of March. A few days later, at the beginning of April, I got a call from a friend telling me he had just taken a call from a muslim friend of his who had asked for my number because he had a copy of a complaint Mo Ansar had made to Hampshire Police. “No, surely he wouldn’t be that stupid,” I said. A few hours later I saw some tweets relating to Ansar which turned out to have copies of this email to Hampshire Police attached to them. At first I didn’t make the connection. All the tweets expressed incredulity. When I finally read the email, I saw it was dated 1 April. ‘Haha, good one’, I thought. Just as well I didn’t respond. But I then had it confirmed by multiple sources that it was in fact genuine, and he had indeed made a complaint to Hampshire Police. Here it is.
Mo Ansar says he believes my comments were made out of “anti-muslim prejudice or on grounds connected to my faith.” He fails to back this ridiculous assertion up with any evidence whatsoever. That’s because he hasn’t got any, because there isn’t any. In fact, there is much evidence which points in the opposite direction. I usually get criticism on my radio show for being far too pro muslim/Islam, rather than the other way around. Ironically, only three hours before Mo Ansar fired off his police complaint I had hosted an hour long phone-in in which I took the Daily Mail to task for their obsession with anti-muslim stories. Perhaps the two things were connected. Did my pro-muslim stance in that hour infuriate him so much? Seeing as the original exchange happened ten days earlier on March 22nd, it does seem odd that if your feelings have been injured, you’d wait ten days to make the complaint. Maybe he heard the caller who told me I was the best radio presenter in the country for covering islamic issues in a fair and balanced manner. Maybe that’s what provoked his ire. Who knows? Anyway, should you be interested, here is that phone-in. Judge for yourself after listening to it whether I could be accused in any way of being anti-muslim or ‘islamaphobic’.
I know my own track record on these issues and so do thousands of muslims who listen to my show every day or follow me on Twitter. So does TellMama to whom he also complained. For the uninitiated TellMama monitors anti-muslim sentiment in the media and deal with complaints about unfair coverage. I was totally happy to let them be judge and jury on this issue. I said on Twitter at the time that I would readily apologise if they found against me. The fact is that they didn’t. They found I had no case to answer. But naturally Mo Ansar hasn’t acknowledged that fact. He made a spiteful complaint to the police and TellMama. He squealed like a coward, and, being the coward that he is, he hasn’t had the good grace to either acknowledge that they both found against him, or to apologise for getting it wrong.
So let me the man Mo Ansar never will be. I was wrong to call him a “gobby little prick”. It was language which was uncalled for and should not have been used in a public forum. I apologise for that.
Mo will never appear on my programme again. It is up to other programmes and broadcasters to decide whether to invite him on. Ansar says I am trying to silence muslim commentators. Not true. I know of three BBC programmes who won’t entertain him as a guest – and they decided that well before this incident happened. If I were a muslim I’d be embarrassed to have this man speaking on my behalf. There are some brilliant muslim commentators out there if only producers look hard enough. Let’s hope they stop going for the easy option.
It also seems I am not alone in having problems with Mr Ansar. Adrian Hilton tells his tale of trying to pin him down on his ‘educationalist’ credentials HERE. David Aaronovitch and Tom Holland have also had similar run-ins with him.
This page on a Wikipedia style site is very educational on Ansar’s background, views and record on online jiggerypokery.
Harry’s Place has also fallen victim to Mr Ansar’s online chikanery. And they are not impressed. Their blogpost is titled “Mo Ansar Exposed as a Fake”. Ouch. But it gets worse. In THIS article Amjad Khan exposes our very moderate muslim’s less than moderate views.
And if by now you still aren’t convinced that Mr Ansar shouldn’t ever grace my airwaves again, have a read of THIS blogpost by the left of centre Futile Democracy blog. It’s entitled ‘Mo Ansar Offends Me’.
The Rationaliser blog has an article demonstrating how Mo shouts “Islamaphobe!” at the drop of a hat.
Mark Humphreys takes Mo Ansar to task for his apparently extremist views. Just for yourself how extreme they are for yourself HERE. And Happy forensically examines the truth behind Mo Ansar’s multiple claims HERE
Someone called Rude Girl made the mistake of interacting with Mr Ansar. What happened to her next is a salutary lesson and is partly why it’s important that people understand his tactics. Read more HERE
And HERE’s what happened when Mo Ansar seemingly defended slavery… He tweeted Tom Holland to say “If slaves are treated justly, with full rights, and no oppression whatsoever… why would anyone object, Tom?”. You couldn’t make it up.
When I found out that the police and Tellmama had found in my favour, I decided to try to put this matter to rest. I emailed Ansar last Wednesday to say that I had no interest in perpetuating a feud. I said that if he tweeted an acknowledgement that he had got it wrong, I would leave it there. But I also made clear that if he didn’t do that, I would consider my legal options, as it is as clear as night follows day that he has libelled me by calling me islamaphobic and part of the “far right”, as well as plenty of other things. Nine minutes after receiving that email I got an Out of Office reply from him saying he was away until 5 May and wouldn’t be reading emails until then. Yeah, right. He’s been avidly tweeting so if he can tweet, he can see his emails. And Out of Office emails do not take 9 minutes to arrive. This is what I wrote…
I understand that both Hampshire Police and Tell Mama have told you that your complaint against me has no substance or validity. By making the public claim that I am islamaphobic and “far right” you have intentionally damaged my reputation. I would be well within my rights to sue for libel and I am told I would stand a very good chance of success were it to come to court. This is not a course of action I want to take, but in the light of the fact that both Hampshire Police and TellMama have apparently told you there is no substance to your claims, I look forward to you making clear on your Twitter feed that upon due reflection you do not consider me to be Islamaphobic or a member of the far right. I would urge you to do this within the next 24 hours. People would view you in a far better light if you accept that on this occasion you got it wrong. We all react in the heat of the moment and Twitter can become a very angry place but I think you went far beyond what is acceptable in making a police complaint, and I suspect in your heart of hearts, you do too.
I do not wish to have an ongoing feud with you, but if you can’t bring yourself to at least offer some sort of unequivocal public apology I will have to draw my own conclusions and consider appropriate action.
The response came 9 minutes later…
Thank you for your email. I’m away and unavailable until Monday 5th May – I will not be monitoring my emails regularly. If it is urgent please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
So be it.
As I said above, Mo is an easy “get” for programmes on any muslim related issue. If a programme producer is being lazy, he’s on speed dial 1. But the truth of it is there are plenty of other excellent muslim commentators to turn to if you look hard enough – Ajmal Masroor, Asghar Bukhari, Fiyaz Mughal to name but three. Other programme makers are of course free to invite him on whenever they like, but perhaps they ought to ask themselves why an increasing number of broadcasting outlets and programmes have seen the light and are turning to other, more informed people who don’t have trouble justifying their educational or theological qualifications and aren’t just gobby…. well, let’s leave it there.
Thanks to all those (including hundreds of muslim correspondents on Twitter and email) who have supported me over the last month. I never ever thought Ansar’s complaint would get anywhere, but it’s not comfortable being accused of these things. So thanks also to Tell Mama and Hampshire Police for seeing through his vexatious complaint. Let’s hope others will see through him as well.
Mo Ansar can still prove me wrong, and admit he got this all very wrong. It’s not to late to do that, and publicly apologise. As I said in my email to him, I don’t believe in feuds.
Jeremy Duns exposes Mo Ansar HERE
Milo Yiannopolous lists all of Ansar’s claims of expertise HERE
Michael Taggart is on Ansar’s trail HERE
Nick Cohen says Ansar’s media career is now over HERE
Milo Yiannopolous has been digging into Mo’s outrageous claims HERE