A claim made by Delingpole in the Spectator in September, 2017 that “there are an estimated 32,000 Muslims eager to commit the next terror atrocity” has been found to be “significantly” inaccurate by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).
IPSO investigated the claim after the Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Miqdaad Versi, made a complaint. He pointed to figures from MI5 and the Metropolitan Police which suggest that 3,000 individuals pose a credible threat to national security, and that they are concerned about an addition 20,000 individuals. These figures do not mention the faith of the individuals identified, and thus not only was Delingpole’s claim a significant over exaggeration, it also had no basis to assume that all of those considered a risk are Muslim.
The Spectator admitted the figure they published was incorrect, amending it to “3,000 suspects who pose an ‘active’ terror threat, and security services reckon another 20,000 pose a ‘residual risk’”.
Delingpole’s correction states, “My main resolution in 2018 is to avoid again upsetting Miqdaad Versi, ever-vigilant assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. Versi quite rightly wishes to draw attention to an egregious error in one of my 2017 Spectator pieces. After a careless misreading, I claimed that ‘there are an estimated 32,000 Muslims eager to commit the next terror atrocity, with another 100,000 prepared to give them moral support’. I would like to apologise unreservedly. The current figure, according to EU counter–terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, is that there are only up to 25,000 Islamist extremists in Britain, 3,000 of whom are worrying to MI5 — 500 of them so worrying that they are under constant and special attention”.
Versi said in response that the sarcastic nature of the correction means it is insufficient in tackling the problem of misrepresenting British Muslims.
Versi also claimed to IPSO that Delingpole had used polling data “erroneously to make assumptions about Muslims’ support for terrorism”. However, IPSO riled there was no accuracy or breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
However, the Muslim advocacy group, Mend, noted that IPSO itself has been the subject of controversy recently about whether it is effectual in tackling discrimination. Professor Chris Frost, while giving evidence on Islamophobia to the Home Affairs Select Committee, said that since IPSO’s inception, only approximately 0.038% of the complaints made to the organisation have been upheld as being a breach of its Editors’ of Practice. The time it takes for the organisation to investigate its received complaints and request corrections has also been criticised for taking too long.
In the case of Delingpole’s article, it took just under five months for the article to be corrected. Mend notes that as such, “the article in its original inaccurate form has already been read by a multitude of people who will probably not read the article again and notice the correction located right at the end of the page”. A significant number of people will therefore have been exposed to false information, which misrepresents British Muslims.
Delingpole, J. (2018) ‘We can never accept terrorism as the new normal’. [online] 23 September. https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/09/we-can-never-accept-terrorism-as-the-new-normal/. [Accessed 15 March 2018].
Mend. (2018) ‘The Spectator’s claim that 32,000 Muslims are ‘eager to commit next terror atrocity’ has been deemed to be ‘significantly inaccurate’ by IPSO’. [online] 13 March. https://mend.org.uk/news/spectators-claim-32000-muslims-eager-commit-next-terror-atrocity-deemed-significantly-inaccurate-ipso/. [Accessed 15 March 2018].