Stephen Daisley

The questions the BBC must answer about Abdullah in Bristol

The questions the BBC must answer about Abdullah in Bristol
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One of the most awkward moments of Tuesday night’s Conservative leadership debate was when a Muslim voter challenged the candidates on anti-Muslim prejudice within their party. The BBC identified the man as ‘Abdullah Patel from Gloucester, speaking from a studio in Bristol’, and described him as an imam. His question stood out because it left Boris Johnson flustered and eventually falling back on his Muslim great-grandfather who immigrated to the UK a century ago. The question also prompted Sajid Javid to urge his rivals to back an independent inquiry into anti-Muslim bigotry within the Tory Party, something they all appeared to agree to.

Shortly after the programme concluded, someone tweeting under the name Abdullah Patel (@AbdullahPatel94) emerges to say he the imam from the programme. His Twitter bio describes him as an ‘imam, primary deputy head, teacher, youth worker [and] trainee counsellor’ with a degree in psychology and counselling. He offered a critique of each candidate’s answer to the question posed on-air:

So if @AbdullahPatel94 is, as he claims and the BBC seems to believe, the Abdullah Patel from the debate, the Corporation has some serious questions to answer about how extensively it vetted him. Guido Fawkes tweeted, before heading to bed, that those interested should have a gander at @AbdullahPatel94’s tweets about Jews. I did and what I found wasn’t pretty. Many of the tweets have now been deleted, so what follows is the screen grab.

‘Every Political figure on the Zionist's payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn. They don't like him. He seems best suited to tackle them!’

He has accused the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance of either ‘lying about wanting to protect freedom of speech, or they simply wish to undermine @jeremycorbyn’.

He has tweeted:

‘How long are the Zionists going to hide behind the Holocaust cry? It was a tragedy, but Gaza today is a repeat of the oppression.’

He accused the Jewish Labour Movement of ‘us[ing] its ties with Israel to try to destroy and silence any person who disagrees with your stance on Palestine’.

He has opined that ‘the concentration camp in Gaza is the modern day Auschwitz’, adding: ‘The Jews got justice, th[e] Muslims deserve theirs.’

During Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 response to Hamas’s murder of three Israeli teenagers and its firing of missiles at Israeli civilians, he tweeted: ‘[I]t’s the Holocaust all over again.’

He has tweeted in relation to Israel: ‘To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise’, a quote which originated with American white supremacist Kevin Alfred Strom.

He has argued that gays and Jews get protection from prejudice not afforded to Muslims:

He has tweeted a graphic urging the ‘transportation’ of Israelis from the Middle East to the United States. It is the same graphic that Labour MP Naz Shah posted, leading to her temporary suspension from the party. Article Seven of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines ‘deportation or forcible transfer of population’ as a crime against humanity.

He defended Marc Wadsworth, who was expelled from Labour after using the launch of a report into anti-Semitism to accuse Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth of ‘working hand in hand’ with the media to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. He said Wadsworth had levelled a ‘valid criticism’ of Smeeth that ‘had NOTHING to do with her being a Jewess’.

Wadsworth, he reiterated, had raised ‘valid issues about the right-wing element of our @UKLabour’

and charged that ‘anti-Semitism is being abused by the right, to push their own agenda’

As of Wednesday morning, tweets are no longer loading on the @AbdullahPatel94 account, suggesting it has been deleted.

I was sharply critical of Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim women who wear the burqa and it’s only right that he be challenged on his views if he seeks to lead a country that is home to 3.4 million Muslims. However, if @AbdullahPatel94 is who he claims to be, there could scarcely be a less suitable person to question anyone about prejudice. If the man who interrogated the Tory leadership candidates is the author of these tweets, the BBC has catastrophically failed in its editorial duties by giving him air time. The Corporation will have to account for this grave lapse in broadcasting standards and work to rebuild trust with viewers as well as the Conservative party. They have let both down badly.

UPDATE: The BBC has released the following statement in response:

'We carried out background research into the online and social media profiles of all out questioners for last night's debate. Following the debate, one individual reactivated a public twitter account he had previously deactivated, whose tweets were not visible during our research period. Had we been aware of the views he expressed there he would not have been selected.'