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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Anti-Islam articles officer fired
Sacked: Harry Cummins used pseudonym for newspaper
A British Council press officer who attacked Islam and Muslims in a national newspaper has been sacked.

The organisation which funds cross-cultural projects said Harry Cummins had been dismissed after an investigation.

Mr Cummins, under the name Will Cummins, had sparked a furious response from Muslims with four Sunday Telegraph articles in July.

He compared Muslims to dogs and said Islam had a "black heart".

In a statement to the BBC, a spokesman for the British Council, said the press officer had now left the government-funded organisation.

"Following allegations that a British Council employee had written a series of articles in the Sunday Telegraph offensive to Islam, an investigation has been carried out and a British Council officer has been dismissed," it said.

Mr Cummins has been unavailable for contact since he was first linked to the articles. The British Council had earlier said the press officer had denied being the author of the articles when first confronted.

At the time, the organisation's director general David Green had said the articles were the antithesis of everything the 70-year-old organisation had worked for.

Sacking welcomed

Abdul Bari, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, welcomed the decision.

It is the black heart of Islam, not its black face, to which millions object
Will Cummins, Sunday Telegraph, 18 July 2004
"We commend the British Council for initiating their investigation as soon as it was alleged that one of their own employees was the author of these rabidly anti-Muslim pieces," said Dr Bari.

"They have acted swiftly and decisively to distance themselves from the poisonous hatred espoused by Mr Cummins.

"We are, however, dismayed that the Telegraph Group have yet to take any action against the editor of the Sunday Telegraph [Dominic Lawson]."

Internet campaign

Muslims flooded the British Council and Sunday Telegraph with complaints after Mr Cummins was first named in the Guardian newspaper. Much of the campaigning was by the growing number of politically-active Muslim groups rallying supporters via the internet.

A spokeswoman for the British Council stressed that fostering understanding between cultures and peoples "is our business". A huge number of projects involving Islam and the western world were continuing, including the Counterpoint cross-cultural think tank project, she said.

The British Council recently published a guide aimed at tackling press myths about Islam. It continues to sponsor exchanges at all levels of society between the UK and Muslim countries.

Mr Cummins wrote four columns in the Sunday Telegraph, the first published on 4 July.

In his first article, Mr Cummins said Muslims had rights to practice their religion in the UK which were not available to Christians in the Islamic world "despite the fact that these Christians are the original inhabitants and rightful owners of almost every Muslim land".

He said Muslims had displayed a "bullying ingratitude that culminates in a terrorist threat".

Another columnist on the newspaper, Jenny McCartney, later attacked Mr Cummins' articles, saying he had failed to "make the distinction between the terrorist and the follower of a faith".

"If he could, he would not have last week applied the offensive term 'Janjaweed' - the name of the Arab Islamic militia massacring African fellow-Muslims in western Sudan - to the British Muslim voters of Leicester and Burnley," she wrote.

The newspaper has not published any further articles since the investigation began at the British Council. A spokesman for the Sunday Telegraph declined to comment.

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