This is an article about the political and social commentator, civil rights activist, banker, lawyer, theologian, imam, communications specialist, school governor, sex education guide author, lecturer, marriage counsellor, prison chaplain and sheik Mohammed ‘Mo’ Ansar.[Update: If you’ve received an email purporting to be from me saying I believe elements of this article are incorrect or unwise to disseminate further, it’s fake. I stand by everything I’ve written in this article, and encourage you to share it widely.]
A couple of years ago, Ansar was near-ubiquitous as a Muslim spokesman in the British media. In May 2014, he was widely exposed as a fraud in articles by:
● Nick Cohen, writing in The Spectator: http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9206741/a-guy-named-mo
● Jamie Bartlett in The Daily Telegraph: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/jamiebartlett/100013574/mo-ansar-and-rise-of-the-bogus-social-media-commentator
● And by me on this site: www.jeremy-duns.com/blog/2014/5/29/the-dangerous-mr-ansar
“He tweeted himself into existence. He managed, with no qualifications, experience or credentials, to become a public figure who appeared on Newsnight, the Today Programme, the Big Questions, and elsewhere. In so doing he became a de facto spokesperson for the ‘Muslim community’, a position he did not merit.”
— The Daily Telegraph
Many others had been onto Ansar’s ways for some time – there’s a vast encyclopedia-style entry on him online, from which a lot of information in this article is drawn – and a lot of people had seen through him because of his appearance on the BBC programme When Tommy Met Mo in 2013. During the programme, Maajid Nawaz of the counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation asked Ansar if he believed that in an Islamic state, with all the sharia conditions met, thieves should have their hands chopped off. A simple question, but Ansar was notably flustered and unable to give a yes or no answer to it. You can watch the clip here.
The combination of all of the above exposed Ansar’s real views and behaviour to a wide audience, leaving his credibility in tatters. Owen Jones called him a ‘total charlatan’, while the organisation Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (TellMAMA), which had initially supported him, realised he had simply been using them to settle scores by levelling false accusations of Islamophobia at anyone who dared criticize him. In December 2014, the organization accused Ansar of being a ‘fantasist’ who had made ‘vexatious claims’, ‘a smear merchant who peddles conspiracy theories’ and ‘a liability and an embarrassment to Muslim communities’.
But memories are short and Mr Ansar is very persistent. His main base of operations is Twitter, which is so fast-moving he can still create enough of a head of steam with a controversial comment on current events that unsuspecting producers will catch it on the wind and invite him on, unaware he has been exposed as a fraud by credible journalists. The media cycle can itself be so fast-moving that due diligence on talking heads isn’t always carried out, and Ansar can seem like an attractive option. He also goes to extraordinary lengths to pursue anyone who gets in his path. He has a simple but extremely effective tactic: he paints anyone who criticizes him as harassing him, or as part of a sinister ‘cabal’ of ‘far-right anti-Muslim sociopaths’ arrayed against him. How the likes of Owen Jones and the Muslim activist group TellMAMA fit into that is unclear, but Ansar flings mud hoping something will stick, often in the knowledge that organisations are obliged to look into any claims of harassment or bigotry.
This article is intended as a resource to enlighten anyone who’s missed the story, and is mainly written to aid:
● Journalists and producers considering giving Ansar airtime. If you do, know what you’re getting into: a man who poses as a moderate, but holds many extremist views. He is an anti-semite and conspiracy theorist who believes there are doubts about 9/11, that Jesus wasn’t Jewish and that Muslims discovered America before Columbus, and he has endangered someone’s life and that of their family to pursue a petty vendetta.
● People who Ansar has reported to their employers or even the police for harassing/abusing/being Islamophobic towards him. If this has happened to you – as it has happened to many – please send them a link to this article to show why they should simply tell him to get lost.
● Employers who have received a complaint from Ansar about one of their employees. The man is a vindictive fraud. Unless, and only unless, he has provided screenshots or other proof of something genuinely bigoted or threatening aimed at him, please support your employee and tell Ansar to get lost. He’s wasted a lot of people’s time and even ruined careers by crying wolf like this. Please don’t buy his nonsense.
1. Hatred and threats
Prior to his media career, Ansar was a financial manager at the Lloyds-TSB branch in Winchester, but was suspended for 'sloppy' work and suspected 'deliberate falsification of assets' in 2003. He took the bank to an employment tribunal, claiming it had racially discriminated against him for asking him to repay a staff loan, but the case was thrown out and he left the company. [The previous two sentences have been edited: they originally stated he was sacked, but Ansar disputed this on Twitter in late 2015. I've seen no other evidence for this, and think leaving a company after losing an employment tribunal against them constitutes being sacked in common parlance, but let's take him at his word here and agree he "left". But as the lawyer and Financial Times journalist David Allen Green has pointed out, Ansar also admitted in those court proceedings to having lied.]
He then started to reinvent himself as a social and political commentator, with remarkable success, working up from local radio to appearances on the BBC’s Today show, Newsnight and a host of international media. Since his exposure in 2014 he is used very little, but he occasionally pops up on Russia Today or local news. He’d love nothing more than for a radio or TV show to interview him so he can grab a foothold again, but he isn’t merely a liar – he is potentially dangerous.
1.1. Stirring death threats against others
In early 2014, Ansar helped stir a campaign against Maajid Nawaz for tweeting that he wasn’t offended by an innocuous cartoon of the prophet Mohammed – Ansar’s motive for this was undoubtedly revenge against Nawaz for having exposed his inability to condemn hand-maiming for theft on the BBC. As we recently saw in Paris and Copenhagen, stirring such views over cartoons of Mohammed is no small matter: people have been murdered over this. Nothing happened to Mr Nawaz, thankfully, but he and his family still can’t return to Pakistan because of the credible death threats made against them as a result of Ansar stirring up the issue along with a Liberal Democrat named Mohammed Shafiq. I’ve seen the death threats in question: they’re real and frightening. For the full story on this, see Nick Cohen in his Spectator article.
1.2. False claims to having received death threats to silence criticism
Ansar likes to boast that he too has received death threats, specifically that Al Shabaab put him ‘on top of their kill list’, usually to silence criticism of him and prove his credentials as a moderate. But this claim is false, as I describe in detail here.
2. Extreme views
Ansar presents himself as a moderate and is superficially convincing on this front. However, he holds many extreme views, and justifies others who share them:
2. 1. Apologism for Islamist extremists
He has promoted events and members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir on social media. He defended CAGE when they offered up justifications for Mohammed Emwazi and like them he instead blamed the security services and even the Quilliam Foundation for Emwazi beheading journalists and aid workers. He has supported jail for blasphemy against Islam. He is in favour of gender segregation in British universities.
2. 2. Anti-semitism
Ansar is anti-Zionist, but he is also anti-semitic. According to this exhaustive website, during an appearance by David Miliband on Question Time, Ansar tweeted:
“It consisted of Zionist Jew Miliband avoiding qs on Israeli refusing to follow UN resolns. Unsurprising.”
Ansar has since deleted the tweet. On his blog, he wrote:
“Israel, arguably a terrorist state, is overwhelmingly core funded through the US and holocaust reparations”
and that Jews
“are meant to wander without a land.”
Ansar has voiced support for Gilad Atzmon as recently as March 2015. Atzmon is rabidly anti-semitic, a fact that has been pointed out to Ansar on multiple occasions.
Atzmon wrote on his website:
“If the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war?”
Atzmon has also claimed that Jews are to blame for the Holocaust, writing:
“Jewish politics and culture, unfortunately, is obnoxious, abusive, as well as racist, and supremacist to the bone... Many Jews around the world are commemorating the Holocaust this week. But if I am correct, maybe the time is ripe for Jewish and Zionist organisations to draw the real and most important lesson from the Holocaust. Instead of constantly blaming the Goyim for inflicting pain on Jews, it is time for Jews to look in the mirror and try to identify what it is in Jews and their culture that evokes so much fury. It may even be possible that some Jews would take this opportunity to apologise to the Gentiles around them for evoking all this anger.”
Ansar is well aware of all this, but chooses to argue his way around it and continues to offer Atzmon public support.
2.3 Conspiracy theories
Ansar has expressed doubts about the events of September 11 2001:
“We have no conclusive proof of who committed 9/11, why the towers were ‘pulled’, why airplanes were modified, why steel melted at 800 degrees not 2,300 or the relevance of ‘Operation Northwoods’. The pleas of the families for an inquiry are denied and the evidence has in the majority, been completely destroyed. However, any straw poll will almost entirely state it was the Moozlims. ”
He also believes Muslims lived in American 500 years before Columbus and Europeans arrived, has quoted a Holocaust-denying website to claim that Jesus was not a Jew and has repeated numerous hoaxes as fact, such as the idea that the first American president was black. John Sargeant has a good round-up of these and other conspiracy theories Ansar likes to propagate.
2.4 Homophobia and women's rights
Ansar claims to have worked for LGBT rights for 15 years, and yet he believes homosexuality is a sin. He also claims to be a women’s rights activist, but his advice to one woman when she approached him about her abusive husband seems extremely problematic.
Ansar’s main base of operations is Twitter, where his persona often appears charming and reasonable. It is a Potemkin persona, designed to impress bookers from TV and radio shows as well as to curry favour with media figures. It’s a method he has honed over several years, and it goes like this: he sees something in the news that he feels he can use to lever himself into the media, usually something related to Islam or Muslims. Media bookers often search Twitter to see how people are discussing the news, and frequently invite pundits on as a result of conversations they have on the site. Ansar takes a position on Twitter he knows will appeal to the media, often a controversial one. In most cases, some people will disagree with him, but several users will support his points and perhaps tweet media figures directly to ask them their view of what he is saying or even to ask why he has not been featured on their programme yet. Ansar also often tries to involve high-profile figures connected to the issue in his conversations, including their Twitter handles so they will see what he is saying - if they then argue against his position, there is a strong chance someone in the media will see it and he’ll be asked on to provide ‘the other side of the story’ or simply ‘the Muslim viewpoint’.
So he casts out his lure. In some cases, nothing happens. But sometimes an unsuspecting booker for a news programme will be searching Twitter and come across the conversations he is having on the issue in question. Who is this Mo Ansar, they wonder. The name rings a bell. Is he someone they could conceivably have on? They check his profile and see he has over 30,000 followers on the site and that his profile includes photographs of himself in deep conversation with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight and with Russell Brand. Clicking through to the link to his website on his profile, they see he has been on the BBC many times, as well as Sky, Channel 4, CNN, Al Jazeera and Russia Today. A search of his name on YouTube reveals these appearances to be genuine. He even has a Wikipedia entry about him. He is someone. So they send him a tweet asking if they could have his details, and soon a car is making its way to his house to take him to the studio.
A deeper search online would have brought up the numerous exposés of him, but Ansar is counting on the fact that people booking current affairs programmes will be under pressure and in a hurry, and is hoping his exposure has passed them by or been forgotten. The above strategy is carefully constructed and relies on a series of deceptions. Several of the Twitter accounts retweeting his views, arguing in his favour with others and alerting high-profile broadcasters to him are simply Ansar himself operating aliases, or ‘sockpuppets’, as they are known. He has at least ten sockpuppets on Twitter. With some of these, he is far more open in his sympathies for Islamist extremism than he can be on his usually piously moderate account in his own name, which affects a tone of being above the fray. At least two of these identities have been foul-mouthed and abusive, and he’s used them to smear people he regards as enemies, such as Maajid Nawaz, presenters Nicky Campbell and Iain Dale and the historian Tom Holland, who he compared to Anders Breivik. Evidence and more background on how he did that from behind an acount he called ‘The Truthteller’ is here, and I describe his use of ‘Ann Fields’ and related accounts here. All his media appearances on YouTube have been uploaded by the same user, one ‘Driller Kay’ - this is also Ansar. It seems highly unlikely anyone else would go to such lengths, or have access to a recording he made of a private telephone call. In an interview on Radio 5 the day after it was uploaded, Ansar momentarily let the cat out of the bag, before correcting himself:
“Just this evening, I put on – sorry, a friend of mine put onto YouTube, and I put it onto Twitter – this woman who had left me anti-Muslim abuse on Twitter and she happened to leave her phone number so I rang her up.”
Finally, the Wikipedia entry on Ansar was nearly deleted in 2012, but its existence was argued for vociferously by one ‘Avenger786’ – yet another of his online identities.
4. Bullying via reporting to employers and police
Mo Ansar sees any criticism of him as an attack, and if you make the mistake of using any sort of swear word at him on Twitter chances are he’ll inform your employer and insist they fire you, as well as reporting you to the police. You don’t need to have harassed or threatened him for him to react this way: his threshold is remarkably low. In 2012, Ansar explained that he reported tweets that contravened the law:
“If you look at the legilsation: grossly offensive, indecent, annoying, inconvenient or even causing anxiety.”
Simply annoy or inconvenience Mo Ansar and your career might be ruined and the police could pay you a visit. This isn’t hypothetical. He has done this many times, in one case pursuing someone for six months over a single non-threatening tweet they sent him because she was annoyed he had denied the existence of marital rape. The radio presenter Iain Dale explains his experiences with Ansar reporting him to the police for ‘violating his dignity’ here: the email Ansar sent gives a very good idea of his method. In late 2014, the lawyer and journalist David Allen Green politely questioned Ansar on Twitter about his repeated false claims to be a lawyer. Ansar responded by sending a threatening letter to Allen Green’s practice citing the Protection From Harassment Act.
All the above represents the tip of the iceberg concerning Mo Ansar, but hopefully it will act as a form of due diligence. If you would like further details, please feel free to contact me.