C was the director of Tell Mama, an organisation which monitors attacks on Muslims in the UK. On 15 June 2013, D published an article in the Comment pages of the Daily Telegraph referring to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby less than a month before. The article was headlined “Woolwich outrage: we are too weak to face up to the extremism in our midst”.
C issued defamation proceedings. The words complained of were:
“Much more important – from the point of view of the general public – you frequently find that Muslim groups like Tell Mama get taxpayers’ money (though, in its case, this is now coming to an end). You discover that leading figures of respectable officialdom share conference platforms with dubious groups. You learn that Muslim charities with blatantly political aims and Islamist links have been let off lightly by the Charity Commission. And you notice that many bigwigs in Muslim groups are decorated with public honours. Fiyaz Mughal, for example, who runs Tell Mama, has an OBE. Obviously it would be half-laughable, half-disgusting, if activists of the EDL were indulged in this way; yet they are, in fact, less extreme than some of those Muslims who are “.
The meanings which C attributed to these words were:
“4. In their natural and ordinary meaning… that C is a Muslim extremist.
5. Further or alternatively, by way of innuendo…that C is:
(a) more extremist in his views and actions than the far-right extremists who were activists within the English Defence League (“EDL”); and/or
(b) a hypocrite, as he falsely portrays himself as an individual who is anti-extremist.”
The parties consented to an order that there be the trial of a preliminary issue in the action to determine the actual meaning of the words complained of. No defence was served by D, who submitted that no reasonable reader would attribute to the words complained of the meanings contended for by C, or any meaning defamatory of C.