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UK's Mail Online censured over 'Islamic honour killing' headline

Daily Mail's website claimed 'honour killings' were 'prevalent in Muslim countries' in defence of story deemed inaccurate by UK press regulator
Protesters pictured outside Daily Mail's offices in 2013 (AFP)

The Mail Online website has been censured by the UK’s press regulator over a headline in which it inaccurately described a woman’s murder as an “Islamic honour killing”.

In a ruling this week, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) said there was “no basis for saying that religion had played a role” in the killing of Saima Khan, a 34-year-old care worker from Luton whose 26-year-old sister was subsequently charged with her murder.

The ruling followed a complaint by Miqdaad Versi, the assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, who had said that the concept of honour killings was rooted in culture rather than religion and had no basis in Islam.

In response, Mail Online, the website of the Daily Mail newspaper, claimed that it had used “Islamic” as a “shorthand reference to the religion of the individuals involved” and noted that “honour killings” were “particularly prevalent in Muslim countries”.

But IPSO’s complaints committee said it did not accept that explanation and ruled that there had been a “failure to take care over the accuracy of the article”.

The original version of the story published on Mail Online on 25 May carried the headline “Mother of four stabbed to death while her family were at a funeral ‘may have been murdered in Islamic honour killing’”.

But the word “Islamic” was subsequently dropped from the headline, while a correction posted at the bottom of the story said: “An earlier version of this article said that police were investigating whether Ms Khan may have been murdered in an 'Islamic honour killing'. We are happy to make clear that Islam as a religion does not support so-called 'honour killings'.”

Versi said he hoped the ruling would encourage the website to introduce safeguards against further inaccuracies.

“It is vital that news outlets do not encourage Islamophobia through the usage of clearly inaccurate and inflammatory headlines, especially in today's climate. Honour killings are barbaric acts based in culture and not in faith,” he said.

The MailOnline website is the most popular in the UK with 14 million unique daily users and the biggest English language news site in the world, according to media analytics agency Comscore.

IPSO is currently considering complaints made against the Sun newspaper, which on Monday published a column by Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor, in which he suggested that a woman in a hijab should not have presented televised news coverage of last week's attack in the French city of Nice.

The regulator also ordered the Sun to print a correction in March after it published a story claiming that one in five British Muslims supported those who had gone to fight in Syria.