26 March 2013

Robi Chowdhury and the Muslim Youth Helpline

Last night, someone called Robi Chowdhury posted a blog purporting to "expose" me for calling him a "spineless, shameless twat" on Twitter, and associating him with the criminals who hacked and harassed my wife, Akeela Ahmed, out of her job as CEO of MYH. 

Chowdhury is a close associate of the criminals - former staff members of MYH (all of whom have been expunged from the charity) - who launched a sustained campaign of bullying and harassment against Akeela last year, due to a variety of reasons, among them, her role in protecting the charity's values of diversity (such as in the hiring of a non-Muslim). Chowdhury himself has also been expelled from the charity.

MYH, a charity that aims to provide emotional support to vulnerable young Muslims, was subjected to a series of criminal attacks last year, including multiple hackings of several senior staff, as well as public releases of the charity's emails and confidential information in April and May. Also included in that harassment campaign were obscene and threatening texts and phone calls to my wife, and to several other volunteers who worked at the charity. 

In between those hackings, Chowdhury - as he confesses proudly on his blog -was party and signatory to a fake "petition" attributed falsely to MYH members. This illegal document contained a series of defamatory allegations against my wife, and made a number of illegal demands, among them her immediate sacking. The document was also a form of blackmail, threatening to remove the Trustees if they didn't sack Akeela. And it was sent out on a public email list including a variety of Muslim community organisations, with deliberate intent to slander and defame, causing Akeela, myself and our family a great deal of anxiety and distress.

Apart from that, Chowdhury went onto harass both me and Akeela by tweeting, facebooking and blogging the same defamatory allegations. This included promoting the so-called "myh whistleblowers blog", which published our home address, our personal mobile phone numbers, our personal email addresses, as well as the personal email addresses of my father in law and his legal adviser.

At this point, it is clearly in the public interest to refer to an official MYH document concerning the realities of what went on - we have not previously disclosed this information in the public domain. Below are relevant quotations from the MYH Annual General Meeting minutes, 14th October 2012, which Chowdhury himself attended:

Unfortunately, when we attended an amazing event co-organised by our friends at The Leaf Network and Radical Middle Way, featuring Riz Ahmed and Wajahat Ali at Rich Mix on 13th January, Chowdhury was present, accompanied by a number of other people linked to MYH who to varying degrees had harassed and targeted Akeela. According to Chowdhury, Akeela "exploded" and set out to "nuke" them. Simultaneously, he claims "I can’t remember a whole lot about what she was saying." He then claims that after Akeela "caused a scene", they left the venue as they were "distressed."

As the organisers of the event will confirm, there was no "scene". The reality is that unlike those who harassed us from a distance, Akeela went up to them, said "Salams", then challenged them in a civilised manner about their continued friendship with and protection of the hackers, and about their advocacy of violence toward Akeela.

Specifically, she told Chowdhury, "You had my number, you had my email, you were on my facebook, you could have contacted me with any concerns at any time. Instead, you were happy to partake in the harassment campaign conducted by your friends against me, slandering and defaming me on twitter and your blog. I'm coming and speaking to you face to face. This is completely the opposite of what you did."

Chowdhury's response was "Please, Akeela."

Akeela said, "Please, what? You've publicly slandered me behind my back, are friends with the hackers, and you continue to protect them. That's complicity. And when I come and say salams to you to address my concerns directly with you, you have nothing to say to me?"

On his blog Chowdhury also regurgitates the long ago discredited claim that I dobbed innocent young Muslims into SO15. I have already refuted this false allegation in my full statement on this issue, and have publicly and wholeheartedly acknowledged, and apologised for, whatever mistakes we did make.

The sad truth of the matter is that a small group of very cowardly people bullied and harassed a charity, its female CEO, some of its senior female staff members, and some of its young volunteers, with impunity last year, to the extent of spying on my wife's and my personal correspondence. 

Chowdhury was and is friends with those people, and participated in the campaign against my wife by his own inadvertent admission of being party to a fake petition "led by the hackers" according to the charity's own investigation. So when he surfaced on my twitter, I tweeted that he's a spineless, shameless twat. Sure, I can acknowledge that it was probably an error of judgement to call him a twat. It's not the best language - but how would you react if people were harassing your wife, and then one of them decided to twitter-stalk you?

When he contacted me via email asking me to remove that tweet, I did offer to meet him face-to-face to discuss our differences to reach an amicable resolution (he actually screenshots that email on his blog, another indication of no respect for confidentiality) - for instance, I would have been happy to remove the tweet, as long as he'd also remove all the multiple defamatory tweets, postings and blogs he'd put up about myself and Akeela. He didn't bother replying to that last email of mine - so as he himself now admits on his blog, he simply wasn't interested in meeting to resolve things amicably.

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