Channel 4’s Cathy Newman apologises for ‘misunderstanding’ over mosque

This article first appeared in the Guardian

Presenter sparked row with Twitter claim that she was ‘ushered out of the door’ of Islamic centre in south London

Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman has apologised for “any misunderstanding” over her ill-fated visit to a mosque in south London.

Newman hit the headlines after she tweeted on Sunday saying that she was “ushered out of” the South London Islamic Centre in Streatham.

She had been trying to enter it as part of Visit My Mosque day and told the Guardian she believed it must have been a men-only mosque, but was not made aware of this at the time.

However, CCTV footage obtained by the Huffington Post from the mosque shows Newman leaving on her own. She is shown speaking to someone inside the mosque, then appearing to look confused as she leaves on her own.

She subsequently went to another mosque, the nearby Hyderi Centre, where she later tweeted she was given a “wonderful warm welcome”.

Newman said in a statement that she had visited the wrong mosque, turning up at the South London Islamic Centre – which she said has had death threats following coverage of her visit – “in error.”

Newman said in a statement: “As the primary purpose of Visit My Mosque day was to increase understanding of Islam, I was horrified to hear the mosque I visited in error has had death threats. I’m sorry for any misunderstanding there has been. I would be happy to pay a private visit to South London Islamic Centre once again.”

The South London Islamic Centre chair of trustees Mohammed, Aslam Ijaz, said that having looked into the matter the centre thought a man who is shown pointing Newman away from the building thought she had said she was looking for a church.

He therefore gestured towards a neighbouring christian church two doors down called The English Martyrs.

However, Ijaz said that despite the misunderstanding and the centre receiving a threat, which local police had looked into, Newman was welcome to make a return visit.

Ijaz said most of the congregation was at prayer when Newman turned up on Sunday, hence nobody official being around to speak with her. He claimed: “On the video, when the man is trying to direct her he thought she was asking for church. I can’t confirm if it was for church or for the Hyderi Centre. But we think he thought she mistakenly said church or the man took what she said wrongly. He is pointing his arm towards the church beside here.

He said that if Newman “comes with an appointment we’d love her” to visit the centre: “I would like to extend this invitation to her if she would like to contact me.”

Ijaz said that he had tried to contact Newman a couple of times via another correspondent since the incident but did not get through.

He denied that Newman’s suggestion earlier in the week that she might not have been allowed in because it was a men-only centre and said he hoped that the media would print “the truth” so “we are not made a target … We’ve been at this centre since 1978 and never had any threats.”


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