Using lawfare to silence critics is a very low tactic. It can also be effective. A media outlet facing a defamation claim may simply settle to avoid a costly court process, even if the story in question is accurate and fair.
This appears to be just what happened last week in the case of the Telegraph Media Group and Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque.
Kozbar claimed an article published in the Sunday Telegraph in 2016 was defamatory. The newspaper rejected the claims. It remained somewhat defiant to the end, as can be seen in last week’s court statement:
The Defendant’s newspaper and website still refuse to acknowledge that there is no truth in these allegations. The Defendant has also refused to join in the reading of this statement, and has denied that my client is even entitled to read a statement which vindicates him of grave and untrue allegations that it has made against him. It has elected however not to oppose the reading of this statement.
But the low blow has been landed. The Telegraph Media Group gave up the full court fight, agreed to pay Mr Kozbar £30,000 in damages, and took the article down from its website (you can still read it in this preliminary judgment).
This contrasts with the determination shown by the think tank Policy Exchange in 2010. It too faced vexatious lawfare threats from the mosque. It fought back and won. This blog has been targeted too. We shook them off.
Mr Kozbar’s own statement covers the central elements of the latest case:
In March 2016 I was falsely portrayed by this newspaper as an individual who supported the use of violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict. This was however not just an attack on me but also my faith community. I was also falsely described as someone who blamed the UK for ISIL. The truth is that I abhor and condemn the use of violence in any situation.
Let’s take a look at some of Mr Kozbar’s claims.
Kozbar and Hamas
Would someone who “abhors” violence visit the Gaza grave of former Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin to pay his respects?
This is just what Kozbar did in 2012. In 2015, the memory still glowed for him, so he posted a picture on Facebook and hailed the “master of the martyrs of resistance”, “the mujahid sheikh, the teacher, Ahmed Yassin”. It was an “honour” to be in the presence of “a giant of the ummah’s giants, who with their pure blood have sacrificed themselves to revive their ummah”. (Double click the images in this post to enlarge them.)
On the same Gaza tour, Kozbar met Hamas leaders. Cue big smiles from the man who “abhors” violence. Here he is with Ismail Haniyeh.
Here he is with Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar (centre). To his right is Mohamed Ali Harrath, the founder of Islam Channel. Al-Zahar is known as a hardliner even within Hamas. See him here justifying centuries of Jewish persecution.
Note that Kozbar is wearing an Interpal vest in these pictures. His Gaza convoy tour was in fact organised by Interpal, the notorious British charity that is dedicated to Hamas. In the next picture you will see Interpal trustee Ibrahim Hewitt (left) paying his own respects at the grave of Yassin. Mr Harrath of Islam Channel is in this picture as well.
Note too that the “armed wing” of Hamas welcomed this convoy visit. It was good for jihad, you see.
During a press conference on the Palestinian side of the border, Sheikh Saeed said that “the arrival of the convoy is a new page of the Jihad against the occupation of the Palestinian territories,” confirming that “the occupation is doomed and Palestine will definitely rise again”.
“Sheikh Saeed” is a leading figure in the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.
Here’s another interesting post from Mr Kozbar. He supports a call for the release of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) officials imprisoned in the USA.
HLF built up a big American funding operation for Hamas and was at the heart of the terrorist group’s American network. The US Justice Department summed up the case when the officials were sentenced:
The government presented evidence at trial that, as the U.S. began to scrutinize individuals and entities in the U.S. who were raising funds for terrorist groups in the mid-1990s, the HLF intentionally hid its financial support for Hamas behind the guise of charitable donations. HLF and these five defendants provided approximately $12.4 million in support to Hamas and its goal of creating an Islamic Palestinian state by eliminating the State of Israel through violent jihad.
Indeed, the Justice Department statement showed that federal investigators had their work cut out, as HLF took steps to conceal its objectives and its ugly nature:
HLF became the chief fundraising arm for the Palestine Committee in the U.S. created by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas. According to a wiretap of a 1993 Palestine Committee meeting in Philadelphia, former HLF President and CEO Shukri Abu Baker, spoke about playing down their Hamas ties in order to keep raising money in the U.S. Another wiretapped phone call included Abdulrahman Odeh, HLF’s New Jersey representative, referring to a suicide bombing as “a beautiful operation.”
There was certainly no “beauty” in HLF once it was comprehensively unmasked in open court. And yet, a decade on from the convictions, Mr Kozbar was still a supporter.
He’s not so keen on Arab armies, though. Why aren’t they storming the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem?
After all, we must look forward to “the end of Israel” (from 1:50).
Back at the Finsbury Park Mosque, Kozbar has Hamasnik company – his fellow trustee Mohammad Sawalha.
Way back in 2006, a BBC Panorama investigation named Sawalha a “fugitive Hamas commander” who ran international financial operations for Hamas from London.
This exposure didn’t embarrass Mr Sawalha. Not in the least. Here he is (third from right) years later in Gaza with Hamas leader Haniyeh. Mr Kozbar can be seen too, fourth from left. The Hamasniks were accompanying Sarah Colborne and Hugh Lanning (also in the picture), leaders of the self-styled Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Saeed is in the picture too. He’s to Kozbar’s right.
And here is Sawalha in Syria with senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook (at the microphone). This photo was taken during one of the convoys organised by Viva Palestina, George Galloway’s Hamas support operation. Sawalha was a key player in these Hamas International propaganda games.
Sawalha was also one of five UK signatories of the Istanbul Declaration, an infamous battle cry for Hamas, issued at a conference where “speaker after speaker called for jihad against Israel in support of Hamas”.
Just last year, it was revealed that Sawalha has served as a member of the Hamas politburo. This photo emerged at the time. It shows Sawalha (third from left at the table) meeting Russian officials in Moscow in 2017. To his left is Mousa Abu Marzook.
The politburo revelations prompted the Finsbury Park Mosque to make some darkly comical statements:
Asked how Mr Sawalha’s position in Hamas squared with Finsbury Park Mosque’s values, a spokesperson said: “We were not aware about this news till recently made public in [The Times]
“We are looking at the situation and the mosque will be issuing a statement in the next couple of days.
“We would like to confirm that the mosque has no relationship with Hamas.”
The mosque’s “what a fine fellow” statement duly followed:
Finsbury Park Mosque is a British institution with absolutely no connections with any foreign entities whether religious, political or otherwise. As an individual of impeccable character who served the institution and was appointed to the Board of Trustees with police support, the Mosque has never felt the need to research Mr Sawalha’s personal life nor to investigate his political views or standpoints. As such, Finsbury Park Mosque refutes any suggestion that it is responsible or in any way demonstrated a dereliction of its duty.
Look into Hamas UK and you will quickly find Labour too. Jeremy Corbyn is a very keen backer of Kozbar and his mosque. Why, Mr Kozbar is “legendary”!
Here Corbyn and Kozbar pose at the mosque with the Algerian Islamist politician Abdullah Djaballah.
Djaballah is perfect for the mosque. When Iraq was invaded, he called on Algerians to “wage holy Muslim war against U.S. and British invaders”. The invasion was only launched to serve Israel, he maintained, in its Nile-to-Euphrates expansion project. Well, that’s no surprise, because Mr Djaballah takes a rather dim view of Jews:
The Jews have no conscience, and they are described in the book of Allah [i.e., the Qur’an], may his name be exalted, as having all the bad qualities: lies, jealousy, treachery, cowardice, aggression…
For his part, Islington council leader Richard Watts was “delighted” that the Telegraph Media Group backed down. The mosque is actually “a bastion of community cohesion”.
How’s this for a contribution to “community cohesion”: when same sex marriage was being legalised, Kozbar signed an open protest letter published by, er, the Telegraph. It’s not normal!
We are concerned that this radical change to the institution of marriage will impact on what is taught in schools. Muslim teachers will be forced into the contradictory position of holding private beliefs, while teaching a new legal definition of marriage. Muslim parents will be robbed of their right to raise their children according to their beliefs, as gay relationships are taught as something normal to their primary-aged children.
Would it be OK to say following Islam is “not normal” and wail about children being taught that it is? Oh, never mind.
How about hosting the Islamist preacher Muhammad Salah?
Salah is pretty bad news for members of the Muslim “community” who want to leave the faith. If they do, they must be murdered.
Journalists need to be careful too, and not just in court. In a revealing episode of thuggery, Kozbar locked a journalist up inside the mosque when he had the temerity to ask Kozbar about the mosque’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The journalist filmed the scene:
Taxpayers are helping to fund all this, by the way. The London Borough of Islington makes regular grants to Kozbar’s mosque. Over the last five financial years they have totalled £88,000. Hey, he’s a hero!
Here’s Kozbar at the launch of the Labour Muslim Network last December with Corbyn and Labour MP Afzal Khan.
And on and on it goes. On May 24, Kozbar will join Lewisham Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft to discuss “new ideas and partnerships around creating sustainable answers to the escalating youth violence in local communities across our city”.
If Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party ever takes power, how about putting Mr Kozbar in charge of media regulation? He is surely an outstanding candidate.