The Guardian's dismissal of Dilpazier Aslam should set off a wave of self-examination in British journalism. The newspaper ignored journalistic standards in the name of political correctnessby Jytte Klausen / September 25, 2005 / Leave a comment
How often do journalism trainees at major newspapers get to write opinion columns on the big issue of the day? Rarely, but on 13th July, Dilpazier Aslam, a 27-year-old trainee, got to write the Guardian’s leader on the “young Muslim” view of home-grown Islamic terrorism. Terrorism is “not the way to express your political anger,” he wrote, but he found no faults with the bombers’ motives. In the timeless style of all brands of apologists, Aslam spun a twisted story. Adding British casualties to the list of war dead slightly evened out the imbalance between the dead in the 9/11 attacks and Iraqi civilian casualties, he wrote, but he did not mention that Muslims are killing Muslims in Iraq. He wrapped himself in the flag as a “born and bred” Yorkshire lad, and pretended to speak for the “second and third generation” of British Muslims. “We rock the boat,” he – and his headline – gloated.
Soon afterwards, a blogger (Scott Burgess of the Daily Ablution) discovered that Aslam was a member of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). The story was picked up by journalist Shiv Malik in the Independent on Sunday and then the New Statesman, and ten days after the publication of the original article, the Guardian sacked Aslam, issuing a “correction” that identified him as a member of HT. To explain his dismissal, the paper cited Aslam’s refusal to leave HT after the paper confronted him with antisemitic material on the group’s website. Aslam never made a secret of his membership of HT, although he did not list it on his application papers to the Guardian. The editor who asked Aslam to write the op-ed was, according to the Guardian’s statement, not aware of his membership.
The real issue is that the Guardian allowed Aslam to espouse a wholesome version of Islamic extremism on its pages. His stories should have triggered alarm bells long ago. On January 25, only three months after having joined the paper as a trainee, Aslam wrote a lead story about a Muslim girls’ school in response to a statement by David Bell, the chief inspector of schools, who had claimed that many Muslim schools were providing an inferior and biased education. The story described how the girls are given verses from the Koran as part of drug education and concluded with a finger-wagging quote from the acting head of…