The Telegraph pays compensation after lying about a woman’s terrorism links

Emily Apple

The Daily Telegraph has apologised and paid compensation after claiming the mother of a teenage boy questioned under the Prevent strategy was an Islamic extremist with links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The 14-year-old boy was pulled out of class after talking about “ecoterrorism” during a French class. He was interviewed by a child protection officer about whether he supported Daesh (Isis/Isil). The boy stated:

I didn’t know what was going on. They said there had been safety concerns raised. If you are taken out of French class and asked about Isis, it is quite scary. My heart skipped a beat.

While Prevent aims to “stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism”, there are concerns that it is used to spy on Muslim communities. Furthermore, it is based on a definition of “extremism” which is so broad and ambiguous that even Theresa May, as Home Secretary, could not define it.


Following this, and other stories about the misuse of the Prevent strategy on children, there was a backlash in the right-wing press attempting to discredit people’s experiences.

The Daily Telegraph ran an article entitled Muslim extremists’ ‘campaign of lies’ to undermine the government’s fight against terror. The article claimed that the boy’s mother, Ifhat Smith, was “a key figure in the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood”.

But the paper had to pay compensation and apologise to Smith, and has now withdrawn the article:

We wish to make clear that Mrs Smith is not a member of or affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood or an Islamic extremist and that in fact her complaint over her son’s treatment was brought in good faith. We apologise to Mrs Smith for any contrary impression and for the distress the article, and our editorial, caused her; we have agreed to pay her appropriate compensation accordingly.

A failed strategy

Increasingly, Prevent is looking like a failed strategy. A nine-month study by the Open Society Justice Initiative found that there were not only serious flaws and risks of human rights violations, but that it was also counter-productive. The report concludes that the strategy:

suffers from multiple, mutually reinforcing structural flaws, the foreseeable consequence of which is a serious risk of human rights violations.

Smith stood up for her son and her rights in drawing attention to the way the Prevent strategy is used. But in doing so, she has been targeted by The Telegraph and had to further fight to clear her name.

It is time for the government to abandon this failed strategy, and for the right-wing press to stop defending it – especially when it has to resort to lies to justify its claims.

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– Support the Together Against Prevent campaign

Featured image via Flickr/CC BY-SA

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