London imam says 'will sue' UK defence secretary over IS claim
A London imam who was accused by the British Prime Minister David Cameron of supporting the Islamic State group has said he will sue Defence Minister Michael Fallon for repeating the accusation in public.
Suliman Gani, an Islamic preacher from Tooting in south London, was accused by Cameron in the House of Commons of being an IS supporter but due to parliamentary privilege was unable to take any action against the prime minister.
However, comments made on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme by the defence minister has prompted Gani to state that he will carry out his threat.
“We will follow the correct legal proceedings, and it is libellous, so that is the main thing at the moment,” he told Middle East Eye. “Lawyers will need to take it forward.
“If it is clear to us, then I will sue because this is not acceptable at all.
Fallon made the remarks in reference to the election Friday of the opposition Labour Party’s Sadiq Khan as mayor of London.
Khan’s main opponent, the Conservative Zac Goldsmith, had run a controversial campaign which attempted to link Khan with Islamists and right-wing Islamic preachers, including Gani.
“These questions are asked during elections,” said Fallon. “Your own Andrew Neil, on a BBC programme, said of [Khan’s] appearance with Suliman Gani, a supporter of Daesh Islamic State, said ‘you [Khan] appeared with him on a platform nine times’.”
Gani has long distanced himself from IS, having even organised a conference called “The Evils of ISIS” at the South London Islamic Centre, using another acronym for the group.
“After what I have been through and suddenly this by a defence secretary, not an ordinary person - a defence secretary is someone you would think would have his facts accurate and correct,” Gani said.
“How can he make such a statement after we demanded an apology from the prime minister?”
A spokesperson for Fallon said the minister had been quoting BBC presenter Andrew Neil on the subject.
“He was unaware of the clarification the BBC had issued on Neil’s words. He is happy to put the record straight on that,” the spokesperson told LBC.
Attempts to link Khan with Gani backfired originally after it was revealed that Gani had appeared in photos with Goldsmith and had in fact been a supporter of the Conservative Party.
Cameron on Wednesday evaded attempts to force him to clarify his original remarks on Gani after Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn pointed out the iman was a supporter of the Conservatives in the House of Commons.
“Do you want to know the views of a person that your leader has just quoted?" said Cameron in response to Corbyn's jibe. "He described women as subservient to men. He said that homosexuality was an unnatural act. He stood on a platform with people who wanted an Islamic state.”
While Cameron did not repeat the assertion that Gani supported the IS group specifically, Downing Street has also come under scrutiny for subsequently claiming that he had spoken more generally in support of an Islamic state.
Asked by Middle East Eye’s Peter Oborne to provide evidence that Gani had done so, a Downing Street spokesperson cited a speech that Gani had made in Bedford in November last year subsequently uploaded to YouTube.
In an open letter to Downing Street this week published by MEE, Oborne said there was nothing in the video to suggest that Ghani supported IS.
“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,” Oborne wrote.