“Have you ever been called an Islamist? How about a Jihadist or a terrorist? Extremist maybe? It’s pretty depressing. Every morning I take a deep breath and then go online to discover what new insult or smear has been thrown in my direction. Whether it’s tweets, blogposts or comment threads, the abuse is relentless as it is vicious.”
These are not my words – although they could be. They belong to the respected journalist, Mehdi Hasan, and they appear in The Guardian. His words have even more resonance for me, as they coincided with a typically vicious blog by Andrew Gilligan in the Daily Telegraph, in which he once again trotted out the old smear referring to me as “the borough’s extremist-linked Mayor”. This is in clear breach of the undertaking made by the Daily Telegraph to the Press Complaints Commision last year, that any such allegation would be countered by a clear and explicit denial from me. It doesn’t surprise me that an individual who forged references to gain a job with Keith Vaz MP, who has compromised his sources and been fired by the BBC, should trot out this predictable nonsense. But it is a surprise that the newspaper that allows these smears to be re-printed ad nauseam, has such disregard for the Press Complaints Commission. I hope that Lord Leveson will take note.
It would also be refreshing if the management and editors of the Daily Telegraph took some responsibility for the activities of one of their employees. They should perhaps read the trail of hate mail that follow a typical Gilligan blog, and ask themselves; do we really want bigots, racists and xenophobes being published on our site? Do we really think that feeding the hate merchants in the British National Party and English Defence league is something that the Daily Telegraph should be proud of?
It is worth pointing out that up until this week Gilligan hasn’t written a word since the election of his friend Boris Johnson as Mayor. Some of us thought that even he had finally managed to vent his spleen.
In The Guardian, Medhi Hasan argues that; ‘We mustn’t allow Muslims in public life to be silenced’. I would agree, and add that none of us whether Muslim, Christian, Jew or none of the above, should be silenced by those whose stock in trade are lies and hatred.