Your front page story last Thursday entitled Muslim Leader Killing Tragedy' sent shockwaves to the Muslim Community of Croydon. A man suffering from a paranoid psychosis and convicted of manslaughter at the Old Bailey was described as “one of their (Muslims) leading figures and highly respected.”
The personal views of two of his close friends were attributed to the Muslim Commu -nity, thus distorting the truth and disparaging the whole community.
The story's headline was a display of grotesque insensitivity that provoked outrage to the residents of Croydon particularly the Muslims.
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My reasons for objecting to such negative reporting are as follows:
The convicted person was neither a leading figure nor a leader of the Muslim Community. He assisted in the mosque project along with hundreds of others and therefore it is quite wrong to describe him as a Muslim Leader'.
Many crimes are reported locally as well as nationally every day without any mention of the offenders' religion. If the mass murderer Dr. Harold Shipman's Jewish faith or the Christian beliefs of hardened criminals like the Kray Brothers, Ronald Biggs and the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe were not relevant to the crimes they committed, then why was it considered necessary to highlight a sick man's personal beliefs on this occasion? In the eyes of the Muslim Community it is a form of racism which is condemned unreservedly.
Taking of human life in such a brutal manner is not only a heinous crime under English Law but is also forbidden in Islam. Muslims of Croydon are a peaceful community and have for decades lived in harmony with people of other faiths and backgrounds. They do not support those who violate the law and bring disrepute to them. Muslims have a great deal of sympathy with the victims of crimes and this case was no exception. They also have sympathy with the victims of circumstances, as was the situation here.
Finally, it hardly takes a soothsayer to predict what damage such negative reporting can do to the race relations and the harmony that prevails between the ethnically diverse communities in Croydon. We all recognise that freedom of the press is sacrosanct to a democratic society, but so is the protection of human rights. It is therefore my hope that sensationalism will not prevail over truth and the considerations of justice and fairness.
It was not, and never will be, out intention to disparage Croydon's Muslim Community. From everyone we spoke to, and from the character witnesses who gave evidence at the trial, it was clear that Mohammad Yousaf was highly respected among the community and considered by many to be a leading figure. That mental illness should have driven him to such a crime is indeed a tragedy and therefore we endeavoured to ensure our coverage was as fair as possible to Mr Yousaf and all others affected by the case.