PCC slaps Standard over Islamic bookshop story

The Evening Standard has been criticised by the Press Complaints
Commission for falsely claiming that the owner of an Islamic bookshop
was selling “terror” books in the aftermath of the 7 July bombings.

Samir
El-Atar, from Dar Al-Taqwa bookshop, complained that the 28 July story
headlined: “Terror and hatred for sale yards from Baker Street”

breached clause 1 of the editors’ code (accuracy) and clause 2 (right of reply).

El-Atar’s
bookshop featured prominently in a photograph alongside pictures of
three titles that the Standard said advocated terrorism and were sold
at premises “such as Dar Al-Taqwa”.

El-Atar said he had never
sold such books and added that a pamphlet about jihad that was on sale
was quoted selectively in the paper and did not incite terror as
alleged.

The Standard had quoted the shop’s manager making clear
his position that he sold mainstream literature. It also later
published a clarification – without the complainant’s approval – which
outlined that the books and DVDs pictured had never been for sale at
Dar Al-Taqwa.

The Standard offered to publish an abridged letter
from the complainant, but this did not go far enough. A PCC spokesman
said: “In this case – given the seriousness of the allegations and the
sensitive time at which they were published, shortly after the
terrorist attacks – there was an over-riding need to ensure that the
information gathered by the paper was accurately presented.”

The
Press Complaints Commission also concluded that the contents of the
pamphlet did not support the “extremely serious” claims in the
headline. The commission pointed out that in the “climate of anxiety
following the attacks” the consequences could have been “extremely
serious”, especially considering the shop’s address was published.

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