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February 2, 2020

David Rose says he’s not anti-Muslim after losing £1.2m defamation case

National

February 2, 2020

LONDON: Mail on Sunday’s reporter David Mail has stressed that he’s not anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim after defamation lawyer Mark Lewis accused the paper of anti-Muslim bigotry and British Pakistani Wajed Iqbal said that he had no doubt that Mr Rose and his paper targeted him because of his Pakistani origin and Islamic faith.

David Rose spoke out after The News published report that David Rose and Associated Newspaper Limited (ANL) have lost £1.2 million defamation case to Wajed Iqbal - a part-time bouncer and former taxi licensing officer - after falsely accusing him of being involved with sex grooming rings.

David Rose said on Saturday that he was a fighter against racism and allegations of racism and bias were false. David Rose didn’t name Wajed Iqbal and his lawyer Mark Lewis or the court case that Mr Iqbal has won but made indirect references to the allegations by both in the wake of out-of-court settlement that has cost the Mail newspaper around £1.2 million.

The Mail reporter wrote: “As for being anti-Pakistani: I first visited Pakistan when I was 18, in 1978. Islamabad was not much more than a village - I think it had one market. I loved the country and its people then, and I love them now - which is why I care about them, and have returned many times.”

He said that he has known PM Imran Khan’s accountability chief Shehzad Akbar for a long time, long before he worked for the PTI government. He went on defending his position: “I spent years investigating injustice in the war on terror, including Guantanamo and drone strikes on civilians. I devoted parts of 20 years trying to save the life of a wrongly convicted African-American on death row. If you say I'm a racist, you'd better be ready to prove it.”

He said: “In 2009, I witnessed close at hand the bravery and self-sacrifice of the Pakistan army as it fought to liberate Dir and Swat from the grip of terrorism. No one is going to call me an anti-Pakistani racist and get away with it. I've also spent time in Peshawar, Mardan and Fata covering the gruesome consequences of that terrorism, and talking to the incredible police officers who risked their lives every time they were on the streets. I am truly thankful those days have passed.”

David Rose said that he cannot comment “yet on the claims of Shahbaz Sharif, or other legal matters. But allegations that I've ever been motivated by anti-Muslim or anti-Pakistani racism are monstrous and defamatory. I've spent much of my career exposing and fighting racism, and I stand by that record.”

Two days ago Shahbaz Sharif addressed a press conference with Carter Ruck lawyers and announced that he has gone to London High Court against David Rose and ANL.

The Mail on Sunday had accused Wajed Iqbal of acting as a “fixer” for paedophile tax drivers in Rochdale in an article written by journalist David Rose in May 2017.

Defamation law specialist Mark Lewis of Patron Law, who successfully represented Wajed Iqbal, told The News that his British Pakistani client’s victory was huge.

Speaking to this correspondent from Southern Israel, Mark Lewis said: “I cannot avoid reaching the conclusion that the Mail on Sunday chose to defame Wajed Iqbal because he is a Muslim. They believed their own article, they chose to defend saying it was true. It wasn’t and they were forced to drop their defence. This was a classic case of anti-Muslim bigotry by a mainstream publisher to their very substantial readership.”

Wajed Iqbal told The News that he had no doubt that David Rose and Mail on Sunday targeted him because he was Pakistani and Muslim. “I am 100 percent sure that David Rose and Mail would not add me in their story if was not Pakistani and Muslim. He accused the reporter of having a set agenda against him and it didn’t matter what the facts were.

He said: “In the current times, being called a paedophile is the worst allegation. We all have got mothers, daughters and sisters. My family is heavily involved in the local community and my elder brother Mohammad Iqbal is a Labour County Councillor and leads the Labour group in Pendle. When the allegations were published, my life and the lives of everyone around in my family crumbled.”

He said: “The licensing department at South Ribble council had three people in it: myself and two white females. I was the most junior member of the department but only I was targeted by David Rose and Mail on Sunday because I was Pakistani and Muslim. No white colleague of mine was mentioned to fit the narrative agenda that the reporter and the paper had in mind.”

Wajed Iqbal made the issue of race, ethnicity and religion part of his claim in the court. He had said in the court papers: “At the time of the initial publication, the Rochdale sex abuse scandal referred to in the article was uppermost in the public’s mind. On 16 May 2017 the television programme ‘Three Girls: What really happened in the Rochdale sex abuse scandal? was broadcast to millions of people, many of whom would have recently read the article complained of or would shortly read about it on MailOnline. The wholly unjustified linking of the claimant to this scandal has caused him huge upset. In particular, he is upset that people who read the article will conclude that by reason of the fact that he is a Muslim of Pakistani heritage, he is somehow being grouped in or connected with those taxi drivers in Rochdale who shared this heritage and who carried out a series of appalling sexual crimes against underage girls. The men who committed the relevant acts in Rochdale were well-known to be overwhelmingly Muslim and of Pakistani heritage.”

In the story headlined “Scandal of the mini-cab predators”, the Mail on Sunday alleged that Iqbal, a junior taxi-licensing official at South Ribble borough council, was responsible for renewing the licence of a local driver called John O’Sullivan, who had been found guilty of assaulting an autistic child by tying him up on a school run. The paper then went further by linking him with the much bigger scandal of sex grooming by Asian men. The paper claimed that in his previous job, Iqbal was a “fixer” for taxi drivers in Rochdale “at a time when some local drivers were raping underage girls as members of paedophile rings”.

Mark Lewis tweeted: “Mail On Sunday pays huge damages for racist libel. Blatant anti-Muslim bigotry. Privilege to represent Waj. Council official wrongly accused over grooming ring.”