The Independent Press Standards Organisation has rejected a complaint by the Board of Deputies over an article in the Sun which referred to “the Muslim problem”.
The decision left the Board stunned, with one officer claiming IPSO’s editors’ code of practice was “unfit for purpose” - prompting one senior communal figure to remark that the Board had "taken leave of its senses".
The article, written by political columnist Trevor Kavanagh in August, made the claim that British authorities had disregarded “Muslim sex crimes”.
Mr Kavanagh ended the piece: “What will we do about The Muslim Problem then?”
The complaint, jointly filed by the Board and Tell Mama, a Muslim organisation, and the interfaith group Faith Matters, stated: “The printing of the phrase ‘The Muslim Problem’ - particularly with the capitalisation and italics for emphasis - in a national newspaper sets a dangerous precedent, and harks back to the use of the phrase ‘The Jewish Problem’ in the last century, to which the Nazis responded with ‘The Final Solution’ - the Holocaust.”
The complainants alleged that the article breached codes 1 and 12 of the ISPO editors’ code of practice which relate to accuracy and discrimination.
But the IPSO complaints committee found that it had not breached either clause, although the committee acknowledged that “the opinion was contentious, and capable of causing offence”.
Marie van der Zyl, the vice president of the Board, reacted to the ruling by claiming the editor’s code in “unfit for purpose” and “in urgent need of redrafting”.
A senior community source responded to Mrs Van der Zyl’s comments by saying: “The Board have taken leave of their senses in demanding that IPSO starts imposing restrictions on a free press.”
The IPSO ruling read: “The claim was clearly the columnist’s comment on the causes of a complex social phenomenon, and it could not be understood as a claim of fact. The columnist set out his reasons for his view, and there was no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information.
“The columnist was entitled to speculate on the validity of the status of refugees entering Germany, and the reference to “a million more so-called refugees” was clearly presented as his speculation.
“The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the article discriminated against Muslims. Clause 12 of the Code protects identifiable individuals from discrimination; it does not relate to discrimination against groups or categories of people.
“The Committee acknowledged that the question posed at the end of the column – “What will we do about The Muslim Problem then” – was capable of causing serious offence, given it could be interpreted as a reference to the rhetoric preceding the Holocaust.
“The Committee made clear that there is no clause in the Editors’ Code which prohibits publication of offensive content. It was clear that many, including the complainant, were offended by this aspect of the article, but there was no breach of the Code on this point.”
Mrs Van der Zyl said: “It is incomprehensible that the committee could at once acknowledge that the article “was capable of giving serious offence, given it could be interpreted as a reference to the rhetoric preceding the Holocaust”, and yet conclude that there was no breach of the code.
“The IPSO code clearly needs to be reviewed to protect minority groups, not least from comments that echo the tone of Nazi propaganda.”