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Downing Street urged to prove Cameron claim that imam supports IS

In open letter to British prime minister, MEE's Peter Oborne condemns claim Suliman Gani was a supporter of IS and calls for retraction
'This man supports IS': Cameron on Gani (AFP)

Britain's prime minister has been challenged to prove or retract his House of Commons statement that a London imam Suliman Gani was a supporter of the Islamic State group.

In an open letter published on Middle East Eye on Monday, columnist Peter Oborne said it would be "damnable" if comments made by David Cameron were to remain on record.

Cameron said during PMQs on 20 April that Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate for London mayor, had "appeared on a platform with him [Gani] nine times. This man supports IS".

He added that Labour MPs were "shouting down this point because they don't want to hear the truth".

Oborne's letter, addressed to Katherine Allen, a press officer for the prime minister, states that during several rounds of correspondence the office had refused to reply to questions about the claim.

It had instead referred Oborne to a statement given to Sky News that "the Prime Minister makes no apology for raising very serious concerns about people Sadiq Khan has shared a platform with.

"Suliman Gani, on the night of the Paris terror attacks, was in Bedford calling for an Islamic state. He’s said women should be subservient. He [Sadiq Khan] shared a platform with him nine times."

Oborne states in his reply that the meeting in Bedford, on 15 November, contains no such statement regarding an Islamic state.

"This is very troubling indeed," said Oborne. "There is a recording of this meeting on YouTube. I have studied it. Mr Gani said nothing which could be construed as expressing support for IS.

"The prime minister has made a very serious charge against a British citizen – namely that that he supports IS. Neither he nor his spokespeople... have been able to provide a scintilla of evidence to support this claim. 

"It would be utterly discreditable – indeed damnable - if the Prime Minister’s slur against Mr Gani were to remain on the record. He must either substantiate it, which I am certain he cannot do - or withdraw it, with a full apology".

At the time of publication, there has been no response from the prime minister's spokespeople to the open letter.

Gani has denied he is a supporter of IS, saying on 21 April he had campaigned against the "inhumane... evil... terrorist" organisation.

The call for an apology comes after weeks of claims by Conservative politicians that Sadiq Khan shared platforms with "extremists" and "supporters of IS". 

On the same day as Cameron's Commons statement, the Conservative candidate for London mayor election, Zac Goldsmith, said Khan had associated with Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian and well-known supporter of Hamas, who Goldsmith's campaign claimed had threatened "fire throughout the world" over insults to the Prophet Muhammad and said that Jews could leave Israel or drown.

Tamimi denies saying either of these statements and is considering legal action.