Feminist writer and Telegraph columnist, Julie Burchill has been forced to apologise ‘unreservedly and unconditionally’ to a Muslim journalist Ash Sarkar after she trolled her on Twitter saying that her worship of the Prophet Muhammad was the ‘worship of a paedophile’.
Julie Burchill who also branded Sarkar an ‘Islamist’ and a ‘hypocrite’ revealed in a statement published on Twitter that she had agreed to pay Ash Sarkar ‘substantial damages’ for the ‘distress’ caused by her Islamophobia slurs last December.
The row began when Ms Burchill defended another journalist Rod Liddle after Sarkar criticised a 2012 article in the Spectator where Liddle said he did not become a teacher because he would want to sleep with pupils.
Liddle tweet read: ‘The only thing stopping me from being a teacher was that I could not remotely conceive of not trying to sh** the kids. ‘We’re talking secondary level here, by the way – and even then I don’t think I’d have dabbled much below year ten, as it is now called.’
Reacting to Liddle’s tweet, Sarkar commented: ‘It’s astonishing that both he and his editor thought guffawing about hypothetically being a paedophile made for a good article.’
Burchill then comment: ‘Can you please remind me of the age of the Prophet Mohammad’s first wife? Thank you in anticipation.’ She later added: ‘I don’t WORSHIP a paedophile. If Aisha was nine, YOU do. Lecturer, lecture thyself!’
Sarkar, who writes for the Novara Media, brought defamation complaints against Julie Burchill, accusing her of ‘using her platform to make unprovoked allegations against an Asian Muslim woman that she is an Islamist who worships a paedophile [and] thereby combined two of the most damaging tropes of anti-Muslim hate: support for extreme fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism, and support for paedophilia and child sex exploitation/rape’.
She said ‘such tropes incite religious and racial hatred against Muslims, and against Asian people who are perceived to be of Muslim heritage’.
Sarkar also brought a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act seeking an undertaking or injunction to stop Julie Burchill from tweeting about her after she continued to tweet disparaging remarks about her for weeks after December 13.
Burchill was quickly dropped by her publisher The Hachette imprint who called her comments ‘not defensible from a moral or intellectual standpoint’ and had ‘crossed a line with regard to race and religion’.
Burchill’s book Welcome to the Woke Trials: How #Identity Killed Progressive Politics was due to be released this month. She has since found a new publisher in the far right Stirling Publishing.
Sarkar brought defamation complaints about the twitter troll, claiming they played into ‘damaging tropes of anti-Muslim hate’. She also sought an undertaking or injunction to stop Burchill from tweeting about her.
In her statement, Burchill said she accepted that her statements were ‘defamatory of Ms Sarkar and caused her very substantial distress’ and agreed not to contact her directly except for legal reasons.
She also said she now understands it is ‘blasphemy for a Muslim to worship Prophet Muhammad’ and that she had ‘no basis for stating that Ms Sarkar does so’.
The writer added that she accepts that ‘Ms Sarkar did not call for my publisher to break ties with me and bears no responsibility for this’.
Responding to her statement, Sarkar said: ‘This outcome is a victory for anyone who believes that people shouldn’t have to face abuse, harassment or smears just because they are part of a minority community.’
She also wrote in the Guardian that she received messages calling her a ‘dirty brown w****’ and that the ‘intensity of the abuse’ she received online ‘severely affected’ her mental health.