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    Islamic Cleric Threatens To Sue Defence Secretary For Repeating Claim He "Supports Daesh"

    Suliman Gani told BuzzFeed News that he was already in conversation with lawyers, while a spokesperson for Michael Fallon said he was "happy to set the record straight".

    Niklas Halle'n / AFP / Getty Images
    Suliman Gani

    A Muslim cleric who found himself at the centre of a row during the controversial London mayoral campaign run by Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith has threatened to take legal action against defence secretary Michael Fallon after Fallon seemed to repeat accusations that he supports ISIS.

    "I'm definitely going to take legal action against him," Suliman Gani told BuzzFeed News. "You have to. It's not right. He can't just get away with saying this."

    A spokesperson for Fallon said he was "happy to set the record straight" and that he was unaware the claim he repeated had since been corrected by the BBC.

    After Sadiq Khan's victory in the mayoral election, Fallon defended Goldsmith's campaign, which has been accused by Conservative colleagues of using "dog whistle" tactics.

    Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the defence secretary said it was right to question a candidate's judgment.

    He said: "These questions are asked during elections. Your own Andrew Neil, on a BBC programme, said of [Khan's] appearance with Suliman Gani, a supporter of Daesh Islamic State, said 'you [Khan] appeared with him on a platform nine times'."

    The BBC was forced to apologise to Gani in April after the cleric threatened to take legal action after the accusations were originally made during a mayoral debate.

    Gani has previously said that he would sue anyone who repeated claims that he was a supporter of ISIS and it has been pointed out that he organised a conference called The Evils of ISIS at the South London Islamic Centre.

    He told BuzzFeed News that he was in conversation with the lawyers who issued an instruction to the BBC about how to respond to Fallon's comments – but Gani was clear that Fallon would need to retract his comments.

    Gani found himself propelled to national attention when David Cameron accused him of supporting "IS" at a session of prime minister's questions.

    But a spokesperson rowed back immediately afterwards, saying "IS" referred to "an Islamic State" and not ISIS, which Cameron usually labels Daesh. Gani said that he was unable to sue the prime minister because of parliamentary privilege but challenged him to repeat the claims outside parliament.

    “I challenge him [the prime minister] to repeat those absurd and flagrantly flawed assertions about myself outside the chamber,” he said at the time.

    A spokesperson for Fallon told London radio station LBC the defence secretary was quoting BBC presenter Neil.

    "Michael was quoting Andrew Neil," the spokesperson said. "He was unaware of the clarification the BBC had issued on Neil's words. He is happy to put the record straight on that."

    When asked whether the defence secretary would issue a retraction, the spokesperson simply directed us to the comments made to LBC, although the BBC actually issued a full apology, not a clarification as Fallon's representative claimed.

    The spokesperson added that Fallon would not have quoted Neil if he had been aware the comments “have since been clarified".

    Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Siraj Datoo at siraj.datoo@buzzfeed.com.

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