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Finsbury Park Mosque chairman speaks after winning High Court libel case against Daily Telegraph

PUBLISHED: 16:51 11 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:53 11 May 2018

Chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque Mohammed Kozbar. Picture: Isabel Infantes

Chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque Mohammed Kozbar. Picture: Isabel Infantes

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Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque, will be awarded “substantial damages” after the High Court ruled on Wednesday that the Daily Telegraph had published defamatory statements about him.

Finsbury Park Mosque chairman Mohammed Kozbar with Jeremy Corbyn at the mosque's 2017 open day. Picture: Dieter PerryFinsbury Park Mosque chairman Mohammed Kozbar with Jeremy Corbyn at the mosque's 2017 open day. Picture: Dieter Perry

The article from March 2016, which has now been removed from the newspaper’s website, was titled “Corbyn and the mosque leader who blames the UK for Isil”. It proceeded to allege that Mohammed encouraged violent resistance against Israel, and that he blamed UK foreign policy for the rise of Daesh.

Mohammed, who is also vice chair of the Muslim Association of Britain, told the Gazette this afternoon: “We need to make sure that we tackle rather than spread Islamophobia so I hope this will be a lesson for everybody, including the Telegraph.

“I have no hate and of course I forgive them but the Telegraph has millions of readers so in future it needs to be more responsible in dealing with these sensitive issues.

“There are around three million Muslims in the UK and these articles affect all of us, so I hope they learn their lesson from that.”

The Daily Telegraph story, written by Andrew Gilligan, has since been taken down and the newspaper has agreed to pay Mohammed undisclosed damages.

When approached by the Gazette the Telegraph declined to comment. But it has posted a statement of correction on its website that states: “The court ruled that the article was defamatory to Mr Kozbar. The Daily Telegraph has accepted an offer to settle the claim by payment of substantial damages to be agreed.”

Mohammed said taking on the newspaper was never about money, although he plans to donate the bulk of it to charity and groups fighting Islamophobia.

He stressed he wouldn’t have sued if the Telegraph removed the article in 2016, when he first requested.

Mohammed said: “It’s not just my reputation personally – it is about the reputation of the mosque and the whole community.

“We have worked hard to make sure the mosque has a good reputation and therefore I did not have any choice.”

Mohammed has been the chairman at Finsbury Park Mosque, in St Thomas’s Road, since 2005, when he took over from the radical hate preacher Abu Hamza.

Over the last 13 years he has helped transform the mosque into an open and tolerant place, which was recognised with a Visible Quality Mark by national body Community Matters in 2014. This made it the first UK mosque and the only the third faith organisation to attain the standard.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party Leader and MP for Islington North, could not be immediately reached for comment. But following news of the settlement, he tweeted: “We cannot allow Islamophobic smears and prejudics to divide our communities.”

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