The columnist Julie Burchill has apologised to the activist and journalist Ash Sarkar, and agreed to pay her “substantial damages”, after a series of social media posts in which she accused Sarkar of being an Islamist, a hypocrite and worshipping a paedophile.
In Twitter and Facebook posts and a statement published on Tuesday morning after the libel and harassment case was settled, Burchill said that her posts had “included racist and misogynist comments” and “played into Islamophobic tropes”. 彼女は書いた: “although it was not my intention, I accept that my statements were defamatory of Ms Sarkar and caused her very substantial distress”.
The Sunday Telegraph columnist added: “I do not believe, have never believed and never intended to make any allegation that Ms Sarkar is a promoter, supporter and/or sympathiser of Islamists or fundamentalist terrorism or to suggest that Ms Sarkar condones paedophilia in any way”. Burchill asked her social media followers to share her apology.
The retraction comes after Burchill published a series of social media posts to and about Sarkar in response to the Novara Media senior editor’s criticism of Rod Liddle in December for an article from 2012 in which he wrote that if he was a teacher he “could not remotely conceive of not trying to shag the kids”. After Sarkar, who is Muslim, noted the Spectator piece 昨年, Burchill responded by accusing her of “worshipping a paedophile”, a reference to the Prophet Muhammad.
While much of the ensuing coverage of the incident, and the subsequent cancellation of Burchill’s book contract by the publisher Little, 褐色, focused on that comment, Burchill also posted a series of further comments about Sarkar, claiming that she was an Islamist, a terrorist sympathiser, and speculating about her sex life.
As well as directing her Facebook followers to “wade in on Twitter” against “the Islamists” and “nonces”, she wrote a crude poem about Sarkar that featured a description of “a gender fluid threesome with Marine Le Pen”. She also “liked” posts saying that Sarkar should kill herself and suggesting that she was a victim of female genital mutilation.
After settling the case, Burchill said: “I deeply regret having reacted in the way I did. I accept that I should have behaved better. On reflection, I accept that I misjudged the situation, and made statements that simply are not true, which I now want to put right.”
The apology also acknowledged that Muslims do not worship Muhammad and would consider doing so blasphemous.
The admission of defamation will be viewed as an uncomfortable concession for Burchill, whose interventions had been portrayed in some coverage as a free speech issue, with Sarkar’s objections reported as an example of the power of the “outrage mob”.
They also come amid heightened scrutiny of racism in the media after a statement last week from the Society of Editors, an industry body, denied the existence of bigotry in the press. Ian Murray resigned as executive director following the statement, which was published in response to claims made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their interview with Oprah Winfrey. An expected statement of clarification is still to be published.
In her claim, Sarkar, who was represented by Rahman Lowe Solicitors and Doughty Street Chambers, said Burchill had “combined two of the most damaging tropes of anti-Muslim hate” by claiming that she was an extreme fundamentalist and a supporter of paedophilia.
She said that Burchill’s “repeated sexual and degrading comments” had “carried a persistent threatening undertone”. Her comments on Liddle had “nothing to do with Islam yet [Burchill] chose to use [Sarkar’s] heritage to attack an Asian Muslim woman," 彼女は付け加えた.
で Guardian comment piece on Tuesday, she said Burchill’s series of defamatory statements – and a barrage of abuse and threats from others that followed, leading her to take anti-anxiety medication for the first time – had been widely reported as an example of “cancel culture”. Noting she had never asked Little, Brown to drop Burchill, Sarkar added: “The media’s reporting of the issue ignored the defamation, racism and harassment in favour of framing me as part of the woke mob – and Burchill as its victim.”
She also said her experience with Burchill showed that not only was there racism from journalists themselves, there was also a lack of accountability more broadly within the industry.”
“Those at the top of our industry have persistently drawn a veil of silence around the bullying tactics that drum black and brown women out of public life,」と彼女は書いた, 追加: “The unfortunate truth is that, 時折, the only thing that separates an anonymous troll and a journalist is a byline.”
While Burchill has made a public climbdown, her book is back on track to be published. The Edinburgh-based publisher Stirling Publishing has acquired world rights to Welcome to the Woke Trials and plans to publish it later in the year.
The columnist and the Sunday Telegraph declined to comment.