Dr Salman Butt wins government apology for falsely labelling him 'extremist'
Home secretary Priti Patel and the government have apologised to Dr. Salman Butt, the chief editor of the Islam21c website, for falsely alleging that he was an "extremist hate preacher."
The allegations were made in a 2015 press release entitled: "PM’s Extremism Taskforce: tackling extremism in universities and colleges top of the agenda."
Dr Butt, who will speak exclusively about the case on our current affairs programme NewsTalk on Thursday at 9pm, brought legal action against the Home Office after he was named in the document. He will receive 'substantial' compensation from the government, who spent five years defending the statement despite knowing the allegations were false.
The government initially tried to defend the claim by using a defence of "honest opinion."
But in a statement read in open court on Monday, Aidan Eardley, legal counsel for the home secretary, said: “The Government accepts that it was wholly false to allege that Dr Butt is an extremist hate preacher who legitimises terrorism and therefore someone from whose influence students should be protected."
"It is sorry for the harm caused to him and in particular for the fact that the allegation was made and maintained for so long.”
Successful legal action
Dr Butt said the lengthy proceedings uncovered many 'shocking revelations.'
"One of the clearest lessons of this case in particular is just how baseless the notion of “extremism”—and therefore “counter-extremism”—actually is. I believe the discourse of extremism is dead," said Dr Butt.
"More and more people are realising that it is a nebulous term used by the powerful to silence any thoughts, ideas or speech they do not like or cannot challenge without coercion. It is the “heresy” of today," he added.
Following the successful legal action, other names of Muslim public speakers have also been removed from the press release.
Dr Butt’s solicitor, Tamsin Allen of Bindman’s LLP, said: “The most shocking thing about this claim is that the Home Secretary defended it over 5 years, even though it was accepted that the very serious allegations were not true.
"It was only after documents revealed that it was a mistake to include Dr Butt’s name in the publication that she was forced to conclude the proceedings and pay a very substantial sum in compensation to Dr Butt.
"We are delighted that Dr Butt’s reputation has now been entirely vindicated.”
Dr Butt said he is also challenging the government’s monitoring of his online activities by the Extremism Analysis Unit, which will go before the European Court of Human Rights.