LONDON: Publishers of the Daily Mail newspaper have paid damages and apologised to a British Pakistani couple for publishing an article which accused them of being dropped by the Home Office, harassing and bullying their staff as well as paying them low salaries.
British Pakistani cage fighter Usman Tahir Raja and his wife Dr Angela Misra, who are both counter-terrorism and extremism experts, had sued the Associated Newspapers Limited at the London High Court for serious harm to their reputation from a false article published on September 8, 2019 in the Daily Mail titled “GP and ex-cage fighter husband accused of bullying and harassing firm’s low paid staff”.
The article alleged that Dr Misra and Raja bullied and harassed some of their staff, with some consequently too frightened to take holidays or attend a family funeral and some quitting their jobs.
It said the couple acted in a prejudiced manner by giving higher rates of pay to employees who were devotees of the same cleric Dr Misra and Raja followed.
The article said Raja leaked classified information and consequently received a written warning from the UK Home Office, banning him from performing his job giving one-to-one mentoring to extremists. The Home Office had withdrawn future contacts from The Unity Initiative (TUI), it said.
Dr Misra and Raja had founded a company called The Unity Initiative in 2009 to undertake de-radicalisation work, provide educational training programmes for police, probation, prison staff and deliver government consultancy services to counter violent extremism.
In 2016, they were offered a contract by the UK government after a EU wide procurement exercise to offer mentoring services to convicted terrorists – those who hold an extremist interpretation of Islam.
TUI was offered a renewal of its contract by the Home Office in 2019 at higher rates, but TUI declined.
The couple was not dropped by the Home Office not was Raja banned from working.
Mark Lewis of Patron Law, who represented the couple, said the Associated Newspapers Limited has published a correction and apology on its website and paid substantial damages to the couple.
He said: “It seems that it is far too easy to make false allegations against Muslims whenever the word “terrorism” is used without checking the facts. It leads to classic dog-whistle racism.”
“We are very pleased to be vindicated by this result proving that the Daily Mail article was false and libelous. We have spent our lives working for the eradication of hate and uniting people across all divisions whether they be based on faith, race or viewpoint,” read a statement issued by the couple.
They said there have been individuals who have attempted maliciously to undermine their work.