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'Disastrous misjudgement?'

Peter Barron | 10:28 UK time, Thursday, 13 December 2007

Last night on Newsnight, Dean Godson of the think tank Policy Exchange accused me personally (watch it here) of making a "disastrous editorial misjudgement" and of "appalling stewardship of Newsnight". I think I should respond to that.

Newsnight logoMr Godson was responding to Richard Watson's investigation (watch it here) into Policy Exchange's recent report - entitled "The Hijacking of British Islam" - which accused several leading mosques of selling extremist literature.

In October Newsnight had been due to run an exclusive report on the findings and Policy Exchange had given us the receipts to corroborate their claim that a quarter of the 100 mosques their researchers had visited were selling hate literature.

On the planned day of broadcast our reporter Richard Watson came to me and said he had a problem. He had put the claim and shown a receipt to one of the mosques mentioned in the report - The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in London. They had immediately denied selling the book and said the receipt was not theirs.

We decided to look at the rest of the receipts and quickly identified five of the 25 which looked suspicious. They appeared to have been created on a home computer, rather than printed professionally as you would expect. The printed names and addresses of some of the mosques contained simple errors and two of the receipts purportedly from different mosques appeared to have been written by the same hand.

Two of the receipts

I spoke to Policy Exchange to try to clear up these discrepancies but in the end I decided not to run the report. This is not because I "bottled" it as Mr Godson suggests, but because I did not have the necessary level of confidence in the evidence presented.

In the days that followed we focused further on the five receipts about which we had concerns and eventually asked a forensic scientist to analyse them. This is what we found.

1. In all five cases the mosques involved said the receipts did not belong to them.

2. The expert analysis showed that all five had been printed on an inkjet printer - suggesting they were created on a PC.

3. The analysis found "strong evidence" that two of the receipts were written by the same person.

4. The analysis found that one of the receipts had been written out while resting on another receipt said to be from a mosque 40 miles away.

Mr Godson says he stands by his report 100%. I also stand by our report 100%. I don't think we can both be right.


  • 1.
  • At 12:06 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

Stick to your guns.

Mr Godson's attitude on the programme last night was disgraceful. He seemed to be suggesting that it wouldn't matter if it turns out that the receipts were faked!?

Clearly it matters a great deal. If the receipts were faked then the Policy Exchange's entire report is unreliable and we can't trust ANY of its contents.

  • 2.
  • At 12:11 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Xie_Ming wrote:

Not presenting the show was reasonable.

Why not do some more investigating and present the show later?

The fake five are a story in themselves.

What of the other twenty?

My God Peter,

you mean you actually checked up on information spoon fed to you.

Well done, seriously. I had completly given up hope on anyone at the BBC ever checking anything you reprt on your website or any other broadcast platform.

So nice one, I watch with horror as muslims in the Uk have been slowly marginalised and pigeon holed as all being crazed fundamentalists. and from what i can see you have caught them at it. This is just one of many fronts our state uses to demonise muslims.

from stripping prince naseem of his MBE (for serving jail time) whilst letting the perjurer lord archer keep his to assisting convicts to come to london to violently protest and misrepresent Islam.

Now you know what i am going to say next. How about you use the same critical analysis to the events of 9/11 and 7/7.

If you need a starter, i'll give you one.

Boeing 757s cannot travel at 600miles per hour at 700 feet. Boeing confirm this, they can at 35,000 feet, but at 700 feet they can go about 200 miles per hour. its all to do with air density apparently.

not as much fun as checking receipts, but it could mean you might not have to in the future.

I have posted this question to many a blog and amazingly none of them have been published yet, who knows eh.

Anyway thanks for doing some proper journalism over at the BBC.

any chance of another interview too.

and Merry Christmas

  • 4.
  • At 12:22 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Daniel wrote:

Good on you, well done. Most of the corporate media would have jumped at the chance to bash Islam, fake receipts or not.

Getting an expert to check the evidence is just the sort of thing I expect of the BBC. You can guarantee that your friends at ITN/SKY wouldn't have bothered doing that.

So how long do you think it will be before someone says you have pro-Islam bias?

  • 5.
  • At 12:22 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • David wrote:

Well done. It is disgraceful that any report proporting to say controversially what it did, is based on flawed evidence. There are many legal precidents that support your view that one bad item polutes/questions the total. There clearly is a problem with this report as evidenced by the behaviours of Dean Godson. His responses to Jeremy resembled the responses I get from my 9 year, when he gets caught out.
Peter, please ignore this pointless twit, and carry on the excellent work that you do at Newsnight.

  • 6.
  • At 12:25 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Kate Tudor wrote:

From watching the interview last night and your subsequent comments I can't see that Mr Godson has any cause for complaint.
He appeared to be the one that "bottled it", persistently attempting to avoid the reasonable questions that were put to him about how far the veracity of the receipts had been checked and to make inflammatory and emotional assertions that since the literature had allegedly been on sale, this was the only thing relevant to the report.
Since the witnesses he says he can produce are presumably the same research team that turned in the receipts, I would have thought that an investigation into the receipts is entirely pertinent to the argument. I'm glad to see that Newsnight still has some journalistic integrity, this has gone some way to removing the nasty taste left by the Madonna interview.

Dear Peter,

I wish to thank Newsnight for their reportage. As maybe you can know, I have been among the first academics to raise seriously question the 'methodology' behind this report. This has led to a direct opinion exchange between me and the author of the report, Dr MacEoin on my Blog.
None of the relevant questions I have asked him were answered.
Now, there are two serious implications here. One is the fact that Dr MacEoin is an academic employed at the University of Newcastle, and though he is no longer officially involved in research on Islam, he should still adhere to his university code of conduct about research. I would like to know what the University of Newcastle has to say about all this story.
Secondly, Policy Exchange is a registered charity. This means that partially they have used public money for the report itself. I wonder whether the Charity Commission will start an investigation on how they may have misused their charity status.

Best wishes

  • 8.
  • At 12:51 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Nicholas Heath wrote:

It seems to me as though Policy Exchange had an agenda when compiling this report; perhaps to make it as sensationalised as the British public now sadly demand.

As a reluctant license-fee payer, and occasional critic of the BBC, I can honestly say that never have I been prouder of the Beeb and, in particular, Newsnight. I was cheering in front of the screen last night as I watched Richard Watson's forensic and damning investigation into Policy Exchange's 'dodgy dossier'. Dean Godson's disngenuous and slippery responses to Paxman's questions were hilarious to watch. The idea that the authenticity of receipts are not relevant to the conclusions of the report is nonsensical and absurd.

I hope and pray that the beancounting BBC bosses do not deprive Newsnight of the funds it needs to sustain such original, detailed and in-depth investigative journalism and I congratulate its editor, Peter Barron, on his boldness, brilliance and superb editorial judgement - in holding back in October and going for it last night, with all the fascinating new information and evidence.

What would be very interesting would be to look at this episode in the light of Dean Godson's advocacy in a number of newspaper articles of Cold War-style 'political warfare.'

A useful primer on what this means can be found in his brother Roy's book, Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards, US Covert Action and Counterintelligence. The discussion of forgery on page 155 might prove especially useful.

  • 11.
  • At 01:05 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Tariq Khan wrote:

Congratulations on having the courage to expose these people. Their report which caused a lot of unnecessary anguish amongst muslim communities can at best now be regarded as unreliable. One has to wonder about the motives of these people. It is sad that your expose has not attracted widespread coverage similar to the original report in other parts of the media.

  • 12.
  • At 01:55 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • chris hartnett wrote:

Paxman is either at their feet or at their throats-and he got it badly wrong last night with Dean Godson.We know full well that this literature exists and is sanctioned not only by mosques but by libraries.That you collectively chose to major on a minor issue(a tertiary issue as Godsom said)to shoot the messenger and not the purveyors and promulgators of such stuff shows you up for what Godson said-Devils advocates,useful idiots and media stooges and apologists for something you`ll hope to escape when youre not only self-censoring-but being made to lose what little collective courage you once had.Godson only gave us the story behind your agenda and clearly Paxman and you did`nt like it one bit!I`ll not be watching you again-your flagship is a municipal parks pedalo with a plastic sword where a real one will be needed.Goodbye

  • 13.
  • At 01:56 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Ian.2 wrote:

Good to see Dean Godson giving Paxman a taste of his own medicine.Far too often Paxmans bullying overides the real issue being debated,this was the best interview I've seen on Newsnight for a long time.....the look on Jeremys face as someone finally had the temerity to bite him back was priceless.

  • 14.
  • At 02:02 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • csharp wrote:

their site says 'ideas with impact'.

well there is impact. PE have become the story.

Public service broadcasting lives.

  • 15.
  • At 02:04 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • nikiha wrote:

Mr Godson has more front then Brighton Beach. I was gobsmacked by his position that the receipts in question had no bearing with regard to the integrity of the report that was produced by the Policy Exchange Unit. I can understand and admire the willingness of individuals to defend an organisation for which they work, but in this case, when considering the weight of the evidence presented by the Newsnight team, the best form of defense would have been to meekly accept the 5 receipts in question and promise to conduct an investigation. As it is his manner has exposed the Policy Exchange Unit and not the intended target of the report, the Mosques.

  • 16.
  • At 02:27 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Michael Sanders wrote:

What about the claim that you met the researchers?

Newsnight said you were not allowed to meet any yet the man from the think tank claims you personally met one in his presence.

Hello - I've now added video clips of the relevant parts of last night's Newsnight, and images of the receipts, to my blog entry above.

Michael (17)

I didn't meet the researchers. I had a brief and inconclusive conference call with Policy Exchange and one of the researchers on the day we planned to run the original report. When we started to investigate the discrepancies Richard Watson asked to speak to the researchers who gathered the material but was told that wasn't possible.


  • 19.
  • At 03:13 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Mohammad Shakir wrote:

Like a lot before me, I am very proud to see that my licence fee is going towards real journalism.

Thank you Peter for sticking to your guns but I do get the feeling that this is far from over...

  • 20.
  • At 03:22 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • George Carragon wrote:

I cannot believe how easily people are fooled by Newsnight's pseudo-piety. Even if PE researchers did fake the receipts - and by no means was this proven beyond doubt - these hate-filled books were without doubt obtained in mosques across the uk. Furthermore, hate-filled sermons and lectures are regularly heard by thousands of muslims at mosques across the uk. So the bigger question is why would Newsnight want to claim that the PE report is completely untrue? If they had been genuinely unhappy with the evidence but nonetheless convinced that the bulk of the conclusions were sound - which at worst seems to be the case - they should have used their own researchers to back up the claims made in the report while pointing out that the PE were not as straightforward as they should or could have been. But no - they decided that they were going to propagate that the PE report was a complete fabrication. No wonder Dean Godson was angry - he, unlike Newsnight, cleartly cares about this country, and about the freedom that we all take for granted and which the authors and distributors of these awful books would deprive us of at the first opportunity. Shame on you Newsnight. What fools you are. Toadying to extremists and hatemongers. Shame on you!

  • 21.
  • At 03:31 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Omar wrote:

Peter, your editorial decision-making could not have been more judicious. Like so many others, in the post-Hutton era, we had given up on the BBC delivering anything other than the party line. Watching BBC News 24 is like watching a latter day anglicised Pravda ("today the Prime Minister said this, he said that, the Foreign Minister agreed, after which the Chancellor said this") with no real attempt at providing any dissenting opinion or challenging idees fixes/recues.

My only regret is that your report will not receive the same sensationalist media coverage as the original publication. Policy Exchange are staffed by media savvy hacks and know well how to manipulate the press to obtain maximum coverage. I doubt ITN or Sky will bother with runnning this story and so far only The Times and the Guardian appear to have done so.

2 final things. For those who claim Dean Godson thrashed Paxman, were you watching the same interview as me? If anyone wiped the floor with anyone it was Paxman outgunning his inarticulate and outraged opponent. True, Paxman did not appear to be totally briefed on the minutae but on the substance, he let Mr Godson destroy himself. The give away of course was Mr Godson's simple inability to explain the forged receipts, despite claiming he had checked his evidence thoroughly prior to publication. When pressed, he relied on the argument that 1 (not the supposed 25 according to the original Policy Exchange findings) shop may have sold an offending book but that was not the question. The question is why did the think tank use compromised evidence to support its research. Not "well we have a point don't we?".

Last night, the issue was very clearly about research credibility and the politically motivated intent of Policy Exchange, the argument about the substance of the issue of hate literature etc being a topic for another Newsnight.

Fot those who claim Newsnight is culpable of concentrating on a "tertiary" issue, you clearly have little understanding of the ground-rules of academic research.

It requires unimpeachable data collection/integrity - this is the foundation of reliable and credible research and to gloss over this as peripheral is to display very clearly either a misunderstanding of what empirically based research is or a contempt for it if it fails to deliver on conclusions reached in advance. The reason this is so relevant to Policy Exchange is that it purports to be all these things. Academic, impartial and empirical, in order to lend credence to its work and gain respectability and acceptability. If it was the output of a political party we would have viewed the research as naturally partisan but using the fig leaf of "academic research" allows Policy Exchange to circumvent this sense check.

Now do you understand why the issue of fabricated evidence is anything BUT tertiary?

  • 22.
  • At 03:59 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Dennis wrote:

I'd like to talk about the whole programme which seemed to me a most unbalanced 40 minutes: after the initial nearly 20 minutes of the report into the receipts the subsequent "interview" by Mr Paxman was one of unbridled aggression on his part - where was the balance the BBC is always banging on about? Hardly one sentence could be finished by the Policy Exchange representative - can we please have some reasoned debate in disappointing that the NHS piece with Gerry Robinson was given so little time, what a lost opportunity.
Finally, how one would like the BBC and others to spend as much time investigating other important incidents before broadcasting. Newsnight might like to expend as much energy on finding out why the BBC will not reveal its own Balen Report for instance?

Well done Peter, Jeremy, Richard and all the Newsnight Crew for giving us the TRUTH! :-)

  • 24.
  • At 04:06 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Vikram Shah wrote:

Let me get this straight.

Policy Exchange claims that in 25 mosques out of 100, certain books and literature was available which showed Islam in a very bad light.

YOU claim that the receipt from 5 of those institutes were seemingly fabricated.

Can I take it that you confirm that 20 mosques out of 100 did indeed sell books and literature of questionable material.

You said that Policy Exchange did not let you meet ANY of their researchers, yet Dean Godson says you DID indeed meet at least ONE researcher and four or five more were available for you to meet.

Why are you so interested in discrediting this institute when the problem actually is elsewhere.

I have never seen Jeremy Paxman so utterly uncomfortable. Was he as poorly briefed as Godson said he was?

Their are a whole lot of books and other hateful literature sold and/or given away by the mosques, 20 out 100 according to you. Isn't that quite alarming? When are you going to get those heads of mosques on Newsnight and ask THEM the questions?

  • 25.
  • At 04:06 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Shahid Dadabhoy wrote:

Last night's Newsnight certainly restored my faith in the BBC which I thought had become rather cowed in the post Hutton era and lost the moral ascendency to Channel Four News. Well done for going back to the best traditions of journalism: Checking the sources, never taking things at face value, not allowing yourselves to be spoonfed "prole feed" and being fair.

  • 26.
  • At 04:07 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Ross wrote:

Typical BBC, the receipts is a minor issue as the books were in the mosques and they do preach hate. Why not invesigate that. Paxmans attitude was disgaracfull just shouting and repeating himself. I used to respect newsnight but no more.

  • 27.
  • At 04:08 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

As you no doubt know, this could all get rather ugly - I hope your team and the BBC is prepared for that. I hope you stick with this one, as you could do a lot of people a lot of good by getting these characters to hoist themselves with their own petards.

For failed precedents however (although see the relatively recent Guardian CIF pieces by Dershowitz and Finkelstein), look at recent exchanges between Alan Dershowitz vs Norman Finkelstein/Robert Trivers/Noam Chomsky/the UCU.

Research and 'pursuit of truth' appear to have precious little to do with one another in the context of many of these 'think tanks'. The word 'research' often appears to be cosmetic, appropriated in order to make whatever's said and done appear
respectable. Truth is the first casualty where nefarious rhetoric is the name of the game and it's almost impossible to beat it if one sticks to reason and evidence as this is just the politics of argument. Last night's programme just revealed the tip of a very nasty iceberg.

Well done.

  • 28.
  • At 04:14 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • French Blue wrote:

First rate journalism - and excellent blog contributions too. Well done for being big enough to include the entertaining if seriously deranged Mr/Ms Hartnett (comment 12), a courtesy I doubt he/she would extend to you.

  • 29.
  • At 04:20 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Michael Thompson wrote:

the question to be answered is why so much of the mainstream press in the UK fell for this report on its initial publication?

well done Newsnight and Peter Barron for smelling a very noxious rat......

  • 30.
  • At 04:28 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Doug wrote:

Well done Newsnight. Investigative journalism is not dead. I also don't believe the report is completely holed below the water-line but it has been called into question and like any academic work must be retracted and reviewed more thoroughly.

  • 31.
  • At 04:35 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Chris Mumby wrote:

I thought Newsnight did what a news organisation should do.

When Mr Gordon said the receipts were not important (or some such thing) - he looked more foolish that Ed Balls in a bouncy castle.

Well done

  • 32.
  • At 05:04 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Richard Dell wrote:

The BBC has a far greater degree of exposure than think-tanks like Policy Exchange. As such, and also as a result of its charter, it has a duty to get its facts right. In its spat with Policy Exchange, it was far from clear that it did. Not only that, but as Mr. Godson pointed out, a few (possibly) dodgy receipts is a tertiary issue to the conclusive evidence that inflammatory and potentially seditious material is rife in Mosques and Islamic Bookshops. The item was in fact a childish tu quoque, of the mote and beam variety.

"Disastrous misjudgement" - the jury is still out. In view of the contested nature of its evidence on an important issue, the BBC has a duty to substantiate its claims to a far greater degree than it did last night.

  • 33.
  • At 05:11 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Hettie wrote:

The show last night was about discrediting Policy Exchange. Not even about their methodology and certainly not their findings.

I'm not sure Newsnight convinced me.

  • 34.
  • At 05:12 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

It was certainly good viewing. Right up there with Campbell and the sexed up dossier.

  • 35.
  • At 05:23 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Chris Clark wrote:

I guess it is unfortunate that the Policy exchange seems to have laid itself open to this critism and that they may have "sexed up" thier report. I just wonder if we doubt there are some Mosques which promulgate undesirable literature and views and if it is not 25% of them then how many is an acceptable number?

I think an important message may be lost by a careless messenger and we end up discussing the ensuing row and not the content.

  • 36.
  • At 05:35 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • elaine wrote:

It was great to see someone like Dean Godson take Paxman on - great TV. However, I think the plot was lost with many of these comments and Newsnight itself, that extremism is indeed operating from many mosques in the UK. I know this from people I am acquainted with on campus.

As for the comments about 9/11 - what mext? The tsunami was an American conspiracy?

  • 37.
  • At 06:10 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Gordon Neil wrote:

Peter To pull a major piece on the very day of broadcast , given all the time and work required to produce it, would require a fairly earth shattering jolt ! Yet by your own admission all you had at that point was a denial from one mosque that a specified receipt was not theirs. That of itself is flimsy at best given the well neigh impossibility of achieving incontestable verification for such receipts. What else did you then uncover...that some receipts were likely to have been produced on a PC...So what, we are not dealing with Marks and Spencers here ! That some of the receipts contained printed address errors. Again so what ! And on that flimsy basis you pulled the piece ! I think you need to credit your audience with a little more intelligence.

  • 38.
  • At 06:27 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • yorkie wrote:

I agree with a lot of what reply number 9 has said.

You people at corporate and middle class level realy do make us laugh at how you think the real world works. I cant believe you sent people undercover to places they are not known to buy books of this nature and expect them to ask for receipts (LOL) why not just ask the book seller to smile for the cameras.
There are reasons for book shops and other shops like these not having tills and that is so they only show the tax man what they want them to see.

It realy doesnt matter that the books are not sold directly in the mosque if you are lead by the hand tothe shop next door and told which ones to buy
Even if the receipts wernt faked do you realy think the people involved in the sale of these books would have held their hands up on T.V. and said "o.k. Paxman its a fair cop I sell these books of hated" LoL.

I would like to see a follow up story actually interviewing the people selling the books in question but you dont have the bottle do you and you dont want to seem raceist either .Or is that what this was about did you think it would give you a chance to score some points with the muslim population for once lol.

  • 39.
  • At 06:44 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Mr Barron

Newsnight is a great show with a great Editor

a big thank you to you and your team

keep digging away and standing up to those who would try to intimidate you as a show, as individuals or as an organisation

First rate and brave journalism, well done and many thanks

best wishes

  • 40.
  • At 06:47 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Stephen Perry wrote:

I found your 17 minute item utterly tedious. I have no idea if you are correct in your allegations or not but there did not seem to be an issue of national importance at stake here.

On the other hand the item on the NHS was of deep significance and yet the discussion was ludicrously short.

I think you made a serious editorial mistake last night.


I am concerned to see the way the potentially poisonous Policy Exchange issue is being tackled. Eric Berne’s “Transactional Analysis” (Parent, Adult, Child) was never more relevant. Media mileage is gained by “Affront” (Parent) and playing “agent provocateur” (Child) but were you to take a rational approach (Adult) and concentrate on the least contentious and most illuminating data, what would your audience numbers be?
How long before Newsnight becomes “Not the Jeremy Kyle Show” – but similar?

  • 42.
  • At 06:59 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • hm wrote:

there is a question mark about those receipts, but do you mean that Muslim institutions are run with perfect rational efficiency, i doubt it.
what about the books on the shelf, can we have an investigation on that?

  • 43.
  • At 07:29 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Abu Laila wrote:

As a Muslim, my primary concern is that a pre-determined conclusion is formulated and when evidence cannot be found to validate the conclusion, its manufactured. This is the latest in a line of dodgy dossiers, sensationalised stories and messy misunderstandings that have adhered to this formula. Muslims are losing confidence in the credibility of any institutionalised establishment and closing the ranks, this piece of journalism was a breath of fresh air...
I hope criminal charges are brought against the researches for falsifying receipts, I don't believe they fully understand the extent of the damage they have caused

  • 44.
  • At 07:36 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Jeanette Eccles NW London wrote:

I blame Mark Thompson and his
'salami slicing' of budgets !

Jeremy's face was a picture though that expression was likened only to discovering you've had your car clamped..

  • 45.
  • At 08:12 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

"Mr Godson says he stands by his report 100%. I also stand by our report 100%. I don't think we can both be right."

You only had a problem with 5 out of 25 or 20% of the 100% ummm....
Who got the story and who missed the story? I wonder...

  • 46.
  • At 10:10 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • jimbob wrote:

i trust al beeb will now exend it's love of forensic analysis to examine what actually is being sold in mosques/islamic bookshops if not racist hateful material.

also you still owe an apology to the makers of the C4 programme investigated by CPS/west midlands police for the way in which al beeb jumped on that pc bandwagon.

Can you explain why al beeb puts so much effort into defending hate preachers, racists and woman hating bigots and no effort into ivestigatign them ?

the only programme on the bbc which has done so was the john ware panorama which was finally aired after much delay and liberal fretting

  • 47.
  • At 10:10 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • J Carroll wrote:

Yesterday I twice received a particularly nasty Email doing the rounds claiming, in very inflammatory tones, that on Tuesday the government removed the teaching of the Holocaust from the National Curriculum at Key stage 3, so as 'not to offend the Muslim community'. This is untrue but the slow drip feed of negative comments is corrosive and effective. So I was really pleased to see Newsnight challenging the authenticity of yet more inflammatory reporting. I think that Christian fundamentalists do an equally nasty line in sexist and extremist literature, which is easily available to those who look.

  • 48.
  • At 12:31 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Mike Dawson wrote:

Where is the argument worth ten minutes, entertaining as it was. The guy is saying that he bought the books at those mosques and those are the reciepts he was given. He does not have to justify their authenticity at all. Would anyone give a genuine reciept when selling this stuff? That is not the issue at all. His researchers bought those books from those mosques... did they or did they not? I expect they did as there are no denials and that question is not being asked by the bbc. Now we have the bbc preaching about honesty

  • 49.
  • At 01:02 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

Good decision to air this report. BBC has a responsibility to correct impressions given if the underlying evidence is dodgy.

Ink jet printing and digital printing are commonly available on any high street for short print runs. Whilst the investigation you have carried out is commendable, what certainty can you have that these questionable receipts were not obtained on the premises as the researchers claimed? You only have the mosque director's word for it that 'this is not our receipt'. Yet the same individuals readily admitted that freelancers used the mosque for various activities including distributing literature. Is it not equally possible that such affiliates could have mocked up such stationary? In any large complex organisation which is not tightly controlled, there can be various versions of stationary in use and I'm afraid management does not always scrutinise this. I don't find your argument 100% water-tight. Plus, despite this ink jet issue, you appear to accept that 20 out of the 25 receipts were bona fide. This means that despite these potential flaws (in my mind, still not proven) the reports findings are still valid. Your cameraman even filmed the offending titles still on the shelves TWO months after the furore! The mosque committee seemed inordinately relaxed about this. Clear evidence they do not give a damn about its offensive nature. Some balance please!

  • 51.
  • At 02:44 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • VictoriaConcordiaCrescit wrote:

Thank you Newsnight and Peter Barron for doing your job so well. Well done Mr Paxman and the rest of the whole team.I logged on to the net to hear the news about the EU treaty and all its implications on the UK and was pleasantly surprised to see the programme on the false receipts.I am proud of my television fee contributing to such high standards of journalism. Absolutely world beating and a lesson to other so called news media.It was a master class in investigative journalism. The hard work of Newsnight shows every time. Quality stuff. Bravo. Although I am looking forward for the news on the EU treaty and its gains and losses for the UK.

  • 52.
  • At 03:41 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Quevoni wrote:

You were still originally going to run with this.

That's where your [first] instinct lies.

The fact that there was a glimmer of journalistic integrity, gives hope for classic Reithian values and harmony over vilifying disharmony to come to the fore; but you were still going to run with it.

Mr. Watson has already declared his prejudices, his crusade for this new century, as any egotistical journalist wants to be a part of; and ignoring all the lessons /[history] Britain learned from the cold and republican "Wars/"campaigns".

Do the 60 million need to be scared of the 2 million, or will the 2 million be scared of the claustophobic fearful group-think being fostered and held by the culture of the 60 milion.

....anyone interested in a dossier about "foreigners" :p

This edition gave some hope, and restored my faith in how great Newsnight can rise. I believe.

Best wishes,


Critical analysis, Pluralism and Pragmatism, compare & contrast.

  • 53.
  • At 10:00 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

If you have commissioned a professional examination of these documents and found them to be suspect then all credit to you.

The behaviour of islamist extremists should be exposed without fear or favour but falsehoods should never be published about any group.

  • 54.
  • At 10:26 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Simon Stephenson wrote:

I'm sure there will be many at the BBC who will be proud with this most recent example of their determination to ensure that fact prevails over prejudice.

It follows on from the courageous stand they have taken in testing the veracity of the assumptions and suppositions of the man-made global warming lobby. And also leaving no stone unturned in their quest to establish the soundness, or otherwise, of authority's claims that passive smoking is the direct cause of a significant health hazard.

Well done BBC. Sound investigating, and no double standards. Just as Reith envisaged.

  • 55.
  • At 10:33 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Nina wrote:

Home computer receipts? Shocking. Come on, they bought them from a mosque, not WH Smith.

  • 56.
  • At 11:02 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Jane wrote:

Journalism is not dead!

Peter Barron respect.

  • 57.
  • At 11:05 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Baz wrote:

I'm appalled at the way Newsnight has handled this. It smells very badly of grasping at straws in the wind to find anything to discredit the report by the Policy Exchange. Paxman's aggressive interview only confirmed that.

The key question was never asked, even though Godson said that the receipts were not used as part of the evidence to form the report. The key question is, were the researchers told to obtain receipts to prove where and when they bought the books or just so they could get their expenses refunded? If just for expenses, then if a bookseller wouldn't give a receipt then it's quite possible that the researchers fell back on the age-old practice of making one up. I would find it difficult indeed to accept that no BBC journalist or researcher has ever made up receipts in order to reclaim legitimate expenses and your own reporter found at least one of the questionable books on sale in one of the outlets.

The piece on the programme was ridiculous in the extreme and has finally killed any shred of trust I have in the BBC in general and Newsnight in particular.

  • 58.
  • At 11:10 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Zahid Amin wrote:

Well done Pete, finally an editor backs a reporter who bothers to challenge these well funded and well connected think tanks and their phony "research".

Liam is right, the BBC has a responsibility to correct impressions given if the underlying evidence is dodgy.

Not just on thisissue but on all issues

  • 60.
  • At 12:15 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Joe wrote:

Who cares?
I suspect the police sometimes use a little creative initiative to ensure convictions for evil criminals they KNOW are guilty. Which they will deny of course, but if I were them that's I would do rather than be impeded by an ineffective and sometimes defective system.

That is the point.
That is what matters: the racist hatred in British mosques, not whining about this small detail.

Whine about it if you want, and find it entertaining to do so, but this lack of moral proportionality and judgement is pathetic.

  • 61.
  • At 01:37 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Charlie wrote:

One hundred establishments are visited. Of those 100, 25 produce allegedly contentious literature. Of those 25 establishments 5 have receipts whose veracity is considered in doubt. The veracity of a receipt does not conclusively prove that a book was or was not obtained from an establishment. A book could be obtained, no invoice provided and then one forged. None of those who undertook the research can be cross examined. The alleged forgery of five receipts does not prove that all 25 receipts were forged. Even if all 25 receipts were proven to be forgeries it does not disprove that these contentious books were purchased from an establishment. What we have is a piece of research whose methodolgy cannot be verified and where there appears to irregularities in part; the result of which more heat than light is produced. Neither have Newsnight or the authors have conclusively proved their case. If engineers were as sloppy as this in designing aircraft, cars, bridges, tunnels or any object which could suffer from failure, many people would die. The question as to whether these books should be written, distributed and the nature and extent of free speech has been ignored.

  • 62.
  • At 01:41 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Jonathan Books wrote:

And we notice that the spelling on the receipt for the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre is wrong.

  • 63.
  • At 02:41 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Jonathan Spencer wrote:

As the BBC has sufficient resources for Newsnight "investigations" perhaps you could show some impartiality and instigate an "investigation" into the illegal donations to the Labour party. Or is this off-limits now because the police are involved? I didn't see the BBC News team getting agitated over admitted law-breaking *before* the police were called in.

And while we're in disclosure mode, perhaps you would tell us how much this six-week investigation cost? But the BBC don't like disclosing information like that, do they? They hide behind the Data Protection Act on 'journalistic or artistic' grounds, n'est-ce pas?

I'm beginning to agree with Jonathan Ross about BBC journalists.

  • 64.
  • At 02:56 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • azaad wrote:

Well done Newsnight.

That was excellent journalism and I particularly liked the forensic detail. Mr. Godson's wriggling was hilarious.

Peter Barron, perhaps you might like to look into the following too:

1) Why have we not seen any CCTV images of the 7/7 bombers getting onto the tube [the London Underground (especially King's Cross station) is positively heaving with CCTV cameras]? We have only been shown (grainy) footage of four men entering Luton station. Surely it has been established (by now) which train they caught, and therefore at what time they arrived in London (It must also be known exactly when each Tube was boarded) ?

2) How many of the so-called 'Muslims' at various demonstrations actually are Muslims? Or, are they merely 'South Asian-looking' agent provocateurs? It is not difficult for someone to 'look' Muslim! Impostors can easily be persuaded to mouth inflammatory and anti British/Western slogans, which defame the Muslim community and reinforce its image in the general public's mind as the 'other'.

  • 65.
  • At 03:14 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Christopher Spillane wrote:

I thought the editorial judgement of Peter Barron was exemplary and the resulting interview with Dean Godson proved why such judgements are made.

If such honest conviction was employed by everyone with power and influence maybe the trust in our newspapers would flag as much as it does.

Point in case: Although it was proven that some Iraqi prisoners were being abused by soldiers, the Daily Mirror's "exposé" that was accompanied by doctored photos was false and misleading, no matter what was eventually discovered.

Standards have to be maintained and it's refreshing to hear that Newsnight adhere to them.

  • 66.
  • At 03:16 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Marion wrote:

Let's consider which is more important - that this inflammatory, hate-filled literature is readily available in many Mosques or that 25% of the receipts obtained whilst purchasing them are not genuine (although the books are still easily available at the Mosques in question). Shame on you Newsnight - BBC bias hits the airwaves yet again. This literature is a direct threat to the UK as it fuels terrorism - yet again you've let this country down.

  • 67.
  • At 03:16 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Mrs Rumi wrote:

I just want to say a big 'thank you' from the Mosque community in the UK. I work closely with several mosques and I have never seen or been aware of their being extremist material being available from these or any mosques generally. However it has become the received wisdom in the media that mosques generally support and distribute extremist material. This is due to the Policy Exchange report. This has damaged not only relations between the Muslim community, the government and the wider community but has also caused deep distress for individual Muslims who are perceived as automatically being extremists if they are involved in or regularly attend a Mosque.

There are many people who for many reasons have a vested interest in wishing to prevent Muslims from being seen as ordinary people just getting on with their lives - which is what the vast majority of us are.

However the damage has been done and how much of the media will report on this and will government take on board the need to scrutinise the backgrounds and agendas of groups purporting to present unbiased facts about the Muslim community?

  • 68.
  • At 03:17 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Christopher Spillane wrote:

I thought the editorial judgement of Peter Barron was exemplary and the resulting interview with Dean Godson proved why such judgements are made.

If such honest conviction was employed by everyone with power and influence maybe the trust in our newspapers would flag as much as it does.

Point in case: Although it was proven that some Iraqi prisoners were being abused by soldiers, the Daily Mirror's "exposé" that was accompanied by doctored photos was false and misleading, no matter what was eventually discovered.

Standards have to be maintained and it's refreshing to hear that Newsnight adhere to them.

  • 69.
  • At 04:03 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Josh W wrote:

Awesome! That's the way reporting should be, curiosity and suspicion working together to get at the truth (or somewhere close to it). Far more entertaining than simplied narrative stories, and more valuable too.

  • 70.
  • At 05:13 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Carl wrote:

For those who whine endlessly about how the BBC will never investigate the radicalising of young British Muslims by wayward groups, then have a peak at the date of this...

  • 71.
  • At 05:32 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Bill Robinson wrote:

A good report, and a good point well made. But Mr Barron, in the context of your stance on the reporting of climate change, just a little bit bathetic (sic). The "threat" from terrorists who profess to follow Islam is ultimately localised. Climate change will, repeat will, affect all and kill many.

Is our society's displacement activity in the face of such a threat inadequacy, stupidity, or a paralysis engendered by fear?

A new chapter in human history is looming, one where we finally reach the limits of the petri dish called Earth. Economists will be of little value, and journalism of none, unless it addresses the really big topics in an adult way.

Good on you Peter Barron and Richard Watson. This is the opposite of lazy journalism (?energetic journalism?)

It’s a pity that other media outlets did not apply the same rigour as you did.

  • 73.
  • At 10:59 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Quevoni wrote:

The other aspect that people forget was the motivation of this report, and of those who subsequently took it up, was the classic tactic of "Divide and Conquer".

They explicitly want to divide the muslims from the non-muslims, and they want to devide the greater practicing muslims from the less observant muslims; unfortunately for them, there still remain enough decent british people (maybe not media and politicians) who aren't so ready to jump to simple conclusions, though the window was closing in one direction until this report.

They need to do this, as the marches against the Iraq war were showing that the british people were starting to wake up against the self-interested and serving interests of those who have had their quiet influence freely reign, and those interests don't necessarily have their primary loyalties to the countires best interests!

Best regards,


  • 74.
  • At 01:00 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Jedi wrote:

Have some evidence that p142 of report is rubbish as well - Peter Baron can you email me so I can send you some local research. Thanks...

The BBC is growing investigative balls, well done!

  • 76.
  • At 09:04 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Frank Flatulent wrote:

As another poster asked, what was wrong with the other 20 receipts. Were they 'tainted' even though the perported issuers found no fault with them??

Seems a bit like a cop out to me.

  • 77.
  • At 09:50 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • johnf wrote:

Great stuff. Made me proud to be British. This is what we pay our licence fee for. For people to present an unbiased and thorough examination of the world. In a world filled with hate-mongers and American propagandists like Rupert Murdoch - a piece of good, old-fashioned professional journalism - warmed the cockles of my heart.

  • 78.
  • At 11:14 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

IT was a ridiculous report, clearly published purely for the vanity of MR Barron. I left that evening with nothing but respect for Dean GOdson and nothing but contempt for Newsnight. 17 minutes on settling a score. You should be ashamed.

  • 79.
  • At 12:19 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Jamie wrote:

#59 Joe - the only lack of morals are apparently your own "creative initiative . . they know are guilty". I suppose the Guilford four & the Birmingham six etc were guilty in your eyes because the police knew better than due legal process. Thankfully British people are proud to have laws & standards to judge people & not blind prejudice.
The police have huge financial resources in this country & the support of the people to do their work if they cannot work inside their own systems & rules they're in the wrong job.


If Policy Exchange had done a piece on how you edit Newsnight, and asked you to comment on it having only seen it an hour earlier and with Paxman doing his usual haranguing you would be the first to complain.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the specific case how you handled it was poor in the extreme.

  • 81.
  • At 12:41 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • John Gentle wrote:

Having had encounters, here in Birmingham, with muslims full of hate for our values, I believe plenty of them feed on hate literature: some from the internet, some from mosques. Have Newsnight ever dealt with this issue (I assume you did report the 7/7 and 21/7 suicide bombings)?

  • 82.
  • At 01:29 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Dai Ben wrote:

More self justifying sanctimonious cant from the Bolshevik Broadcasting Cooperative! Offered a story about the sale of hate filled literature in British mosques the anti British BBC focus all their efforts on the authenticity of a couple of receipts rather than establishing whether these books were for sale. Do Barron and the rest of his flunkeys deny that these books were available in mosques or shops associated with them ?

  • 83.
  • At 02:35 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Excellent investigative journalism. You've restored my faith in BBC news which is saying something following Panorama's downward spiral (dodgy wifi reports etc).

Keep up the good work.

Joe 'comment no. 53' I don't think you'd be quite so happy with the Police fabricating evidence if you were the accused.

  • 84.
  • At 03:10 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Mahmood Khawaja wrote:

Sir, the last time I read something
postive about the Muslim community
in Britain was nearly twenty years ago in the Guardian newspaper. If every accusation made against Muslims is investigated in the same way that Newsnight has done, I am sure the British public will find out that we are not as bad as we are protrayed after all. Hopefully you have set the ball rolling.

  • 85.
  • At 04:50 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Timothy Pasquarelli wrote:

Only as an observation, I would not be overly concerned about a receipt printed on a home computer. I run a small consulting business. Almost all my invoices and receipts are printed on my inkjet computer. That said, my experience while working in Iraq, Afghanistan and several other countries in the Mid-East, Far East, Africa and Latin America, I have had to have receipts hand printed on napkins or any other paper or other material that is handy. You just make sure there is sufficient information that the ultimate source can be traced and verified. Then, after that is said, I would not be surprised at fifty to sixty percent fraudulent receipts in the chaotic conditions of Iraq.

  • 87.
  • At 10:56 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Catttt wrote:

Congratulations on your petty, niggling story, which belittles the huge problem with radical Islamist literature and which outed undercover Muslims, who now are being hunted down by Islamists. And to think the British have to pay for TV. Unreal.

  • 88.
  • At 02:10 PM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • saima ahsan wrote:

Brilliant journalism at last!!!Well done and stick to your guns, I am sure this is not the end of it!!

  • 89.
  • At 12:18 AM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Anat Koren wrote:

Mr Barron's programme has some experience in the area of fraudulent surveys as this upheld complaint against his programme earlier this year indicates.

I hope so much that Newsnight has turned away from creating the news and returned to reporting it.

He will have to demonstrate the quality and integrity of his programmes journalism more than any other BBC editor. If this is found wanting the whole BBC will suffer as will any of us who try to produce reports based on all the facts and not only those that suit our views.

  • 90.
  • At 08:20 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Quevoni wrote:

You were still originally going to run with this.

That's where your [first] instinct lies.

The fact that there was a glimmer of journalistic integrity, gives hope for classic Reithian values and harmony over vilifying disharmony to come to the fore; but you were still going to run with it.

Mr. Watson has already declared his prejudices, his crusade for this new century, as any egotistical journalist wants to be a part of; and ignoring all the lessons /[history] Britain learned from the cold and republican "Wars/"campaigns".

Do the 60 million need to be scared of the 2 million, or will the 2 million be scared of the claustophobic fearful group-think being fostered and held by the culture of the 60 milion.

....anyone interested in a dossier about "foreigners" :p

This edition gave some hope, and restored my faith in how great Newsnight can rise. I believe.

Best wishes,


Critical analysis, Pluralism and Pragmatism, compare & contrast.

  • 91.
  • At 04:50 AM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • greg wrote:

Why all this talk about extreme statements in muslim literature? I am not one to defend any religion, but statemants have to be taken in perspective.

You could run the exact same article about christians. Some of the hard line christian texts contain equally offensive statements. I cant think what could be more offensive than telling people that they are going to spend eternity suffering in hell if they do not believe in their particular god.

Just look at the christian terrorism page on wikipedia. Why dont you run an article on the Christian Identity movement in america, and claim that this is what most churches secretly endorse? that would never happen. But when it comes to muslims it seems to be OK.

This however i feel was good journalism. There definately is something odd about the evidence that this report was based on, no matter how much Mr Godson denies it.

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