Update: The BBC amended its news and included the Mufti's response

Libya’s top religious body, the Fatwa House, is to file a complaint in the UK against British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for media misinformation, accusing it of slander and defamation against Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadiq Al-Gharyani, The Libya Observer has learned.

The BBC reported on Wednesday that the Libyan Mufti Al-Gharyani had made a £ 250.000 donation in cash to Exeter mosque, claiming “he is a supporter of Al-Qaeda-aligned militia groups.”

The BBC’s Ben Woolvin also claimed that “Mr. Al-Gharyani hasn’t responded to our attempts to contact him.”

But emails obtained by The Libya Observer have showed that the BBC’s claims were inconsistent and full of misinformation.

Ben Woolvin contacted the Libyan Fatwa House on April 05 demanding explanations from the Mufti over his donation to Exeter mosque and his alleged support to Al-Qaeda-aligned militia groups. He also demanded information about the nature of relation between the Mufti and Shaheed Ul Hassan, the man said to have brought the cash to the mosque, according to the BBC’s spotlight report.

Ben Woolvin set Wednesday, April 11, a deadline for the response.

According to the emails, the Relations Unit of the Libyan Fatwa House responded to the inquiries of the BBC’s Ben Woolvin on April 09 in a 27-page email, but the BBC has failed to report this and claimed that no reply had been received from Al-Gharyani, giving misleading information to its viewers.

In its reply, the Fatwa House explained that the relation between the Mufti and Shaheed Ul Hassan is old because the latter is one of the trustees of the mosque. It said the donation was collected in a more than two-year long fundraising campaign to complete the construction of Exeter mosque because of lack of cash.

“We do not remember the total money; the donation was in installments and whenever we receive one, we send it,” the Fatwa House replied, adding that “the Exeter mosque represents moderate Islam that is free of extremism.”

The Fatwa House also refuted links of Grand Mufti Al-Gharyani to extremism, providing the BBC with several clues and internet links to the Mufti and the Fatwa House’s previous statements on extremism and fighting terror.  

“Allegations of supporting extremist group such as Al-Qaeda are baseless. It’s just a fabrication from the political foes who support Haftar and the return to tyranny rule.” The Fatwa House indicated, adding that the Mufti alone has issued more than 30 statements and tens of articles to denounce extremism in all its forms.

The Fatwa House referred in its reply to the previous meeting of the Mufti with former British Ambassador Michael Aron and U.S. Ambassador Deborah Jones in 2014.

“Both ambassadors hailed that meeting as positive. They discussed with the Mufti a range of topics including terrorism and how to fight it. If he supports radical groups, then why had they come and listened to him?” A senior official from the Fatwa House commented on the BBC claims.

The official, who preferred not to be named, confirmed to The Libya Observer that their lawyers are now preparing to take a legal action against the BBC for misinformation and slander, without giving further details.

Meanwhile, The Libya Observer has also learned that a senior diplomat at the UK Embassy in Libya met with senior officials from the Libyan Fatwa House on Wednesday. Both sides discussed several issues related to Libya’s current status quo and the international efforts to resolve the current crisis.