Leading British Muslim and interfaith organisations today wrote to Paul Dacre, the Editor of the Daily Mail condemning an article by columnist Richard Littlejohn that deployed hateful Muslim stereotypes. The column purports to criticise an individual but instead uses slurs commonly found in racist and far-right websites to make its point.
Entitled “Jolly Jihadi’s Outing to Legoland”, the article satirises a community event that is to be held at the theme park, organised through a private group booking. Mr Littlejohn uses hateful tropes to fill his article. Mr Littlejohn jokes that the group, which will in real life have parents and children in attendance, will travel to Legoland in a coach “...packed with explosives stops in Parliament Square. As Big Ben strikes ten, driver will blow himself up”.
As a result of Mr Littlejohn's article, far-right groups are threatening to turn up at Legoland, thus causing distress to the children present.
The letter is signed by a cross-section of British Muslims. It is in no way a defence of the views attributed to the person Mr Littlejohn criticises, but rather a challenge to our media not to accept such hateful language in our discourse.
The letter reads:
Dear Mr Dacre,
We write to express our condemnation of a recent article published by Richard Littlejohn in your newspaper. Entitled “Jolly Jihadi’s Outing to Legoland”, Mr Littlejohn deploys the most hateful stereotypes of Muslims to attack an individual.
Our condemnation is not about the attacks on Mr Haitham al-Haddad: he is perfectly capable of responding to the accusations put to him if minded to do so. Many of us may well disagree with the views attributed to him. Rather, we are speaking out at the insidious and hateful tropes Mr Littlejohn uses for his argument.
Mr Littlejohn may think he is humorous, satirical in fact. But there is nothing funny about inciting hatred. The language he deploys is exactly the same as those used by racists and the far-right. One needs only to peruse the comments below his article online to see the hatred against Muslims Mr Littlejohn has generated.
Would you allow similar hateful stereotypes to be used when writing about other faith or race communities?
Mr Littlejohn may suggest his words of hatred are directed at one figure rather than mainstream Muslims. This is a poor excuse. He accuses one figure of using hate speech by deploying hate speech himself.
As a cross section of Britain's Muslim community, along with many of our fellow Britons, we state clearly and loudly that Mr Littlejohn's article is the worst form of bigotry. This goes beyond causing offence. Your newspaper has published an incitement to hate Muslims.
So, we urge you, in the interests of decency and fairplay, to retract Mr Littlejohn's article and to issue an apology not just to British Muslims, but to your readers and the great British public at large.
Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Founder and Director, Faith Matters and Tell Mama
Director, Christian Muslim Forum
Director, Interfaith Matters
Secretary General, Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO)
Maulana Sarfraz Madni,
Chairman, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board
Vice-President, Muslim Association of Britain
Council of European Jamaats (COEJ)
Chief Executive, Muslim Youth Helpline
Sufyan G Ismail,
Executive Board Member, Muslim Council of Scotland
Saleem Kidwai OBE,
Secretary General, Muslim Council of Wales
General Secretary, Council of Mosques, South London and Southern Counties
Abdul Hamid Qureshi
Chair, Lancashire Council of Mosques
Chairman, London Islamic Culture and Recreation Society (LICARS)
Executive Director, Muslim Welfare House (London)
British Muslim Initiative and Finsbury Park Mosque
Sheikh Hojjat Ramzy
Chair, Iqra Institute, Oxford
Federation of Muslim Organisations Leicestershire
Young Muslim Organisation UK
Dr Mohammed Idrees
General Secretary, UK Islamic Mission
London Imam and Director of Barefoot Institute
Yusuf Al Khoei
Moulana Shahid Raza,
Founding Trustee, British Muslim Forum
Sir Iqbal Sacranie
Balham Mosque & Tooting Islamic Centre
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari
Author and Commentator
Head of Media, Dawatul Islam UK & Eire
Trustee /Chair. 'Al Jamiah Al Islamiyah Darul Uloom Lancashire
General Secretary, Southampton Medina Mosque Trust Ltd
Muslim Women's Association
Chairman, East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre
President, Islamic Forum of Europe
Dr Fiaz Hussain
Secretary General, Luton Council of Mosques
JAN Trust (Women's charity)