Meet the British man correcting stories about Muslims

Versi believes these mistakes have become all too common and says they can create tension in communities.

Eve Dugdale

Published: Updated:

We all have to make corrections from time to time.

Whether it’s something we’ve misinterpreted in a conversation with a friend or an issue we have to clarify in the office.

For Miqdaad Versi however, making corrections is a way of life.

As the Muslim Council of Britain’s assistant secretary general, Mr Versi, spends a percentage of his time correcting errors in the reporting of Muslims and Islam in the British press.

He believes these mistakes have become all too common and says they can create tension in communities.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Versi said: "Nobody else was doing this (pursuing corrections). There have been so many articles about Muslims overall that have been entirely inaccurate, and they create this idea within many Muslim communities that the media is out to get them.

"The reason that's the case is because nobody is challenging these newspapers and saying, 'That's not true.'"

Mr Versi believes that, in the past, corrections to stories were mostly printed when individuals were the victims of inaccurate reporting, but he is looking at a whole topic.

His job is tough. He uses spreadsheets and liases with national newspapers to clarify issues. Indeed, he was behind eight corrections in December alone.

And for many Muslims individuals, explaining aspects of their faith and addressing inaccuracies is something they’re used to.

I’ll never forget meeting an Emirati woman in Abu Dhabi who told me she was asked, while travelling in America, if she was allowed to eat with her husband at home.

The woman explained that she laughed off the question and told the stranger that yes, she dined with her family every day.

For Mariya Khan, her most bizarre clarification involved explaining that her faith doesn’t command her to do something dangerous - going without water for a month!

She says: “During Ramadan, I’ve been asked things like: ‘You can't eat or drink for 30 days? Not even drink water?’ People assumed it was a month straight of starvation essentially. I had to explain numerous times it was only sunrise to sunset.”

Rather than being offended by questions, Majid Karim says he welcomes them, adding: “I embrace it. Islam tells us to openly convey the message and clear any misconceptions.”

He says: “Something I’ve been asked a few times is: ‘Are you extremist or moderate?’ My reply is ‘Yes, I try to be extremely kind!’ Also I’ve had people ask why are Muslims so backward? I say, ‘Did you know Muslims invented many everyday things like the guitar, coffee, camera, flying aircraft, universities and Algebra’. The look of awe and amazement is a picture in itself.

“I’m also commonly asked about having four wives – something that’s not common in my society – and I just reply that I struggle pleasing one let alone another!”

With those I spoke to revealing they’ve been asked everything from ‘Are Muslims allowed to wear deodorant’? to queries over whether women need to wear hijabs in the home, it seems people are often confused as to what it means to be Muslim.

For Saqab Rasul, there are common misconceptions and if someone genuinely wants to learn, he’ll gladly explain things.

He says: “I'm usually pretty happy to talk about my faith. Every year quite a few non-Muslim colleagues in the office will fast with me. It's a great way to have a genuine conversation about being Muslim. The issue is sometimes giving an exact answer as all Muslims live their life differently. It's like saying all English people eat chips and gravy with a cup of tea!”