Islamic fundamentalism: is George Galloway's Respect the stupidest party in Britain?

A motion submitted for consideration at the meeting of Tower Hamlets council later today has unfortunately been somewhat overtaken by events. Two Respect councillors, Fozol Miah and Harun Miah, have put down an angry jeremiad (see page 11 of this PDF) attacking me for “the utterly unfair denigration of a hard-working senior council officer,” Lutfur Ali, and calling on the council to express its complete confidence in him.

Alas, in between penning their sizzler and having it debated tonight, Mr Ali, the council’s assistant chief executive, has resigned – after it became clear that “hard-working” was indeed the right word for him. So hard-working was Mr Ali that he appears to have been doing two jobs, both at public expense, in direct breach of his contract!

Mr Ali, whose responsibilities included council grants, had been appointed despite submitting a misleading CV, and despite headhunters making clear that he was totally unsuited to the job. But he did have one important qualification for high office at Tower Hamlets – he was closely linked to the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe.

Of course the IFE must be cross that the council’s fast-flowing money tap to its various associated bodies might now be turned off. But no doubt it is pure chance that the two councillors who defended Mr Ali are members of a party, Respect, whose council group leader, Councillor Abjol Miah, is a senior activist in the IFE, and whose sole parliamentary representative, George Galloway, owes, in his own words, “more than I can say” to the fundamentalists.

Given this record, if I was Respect, I think I’d want (with an election coming up and all) to put some distance between myself, Islamist sectarians, and their dodgy ex-council officer crony. But no – with a recklessness that’s almost refreshing, Respect have embraced the hopeless Lutfur Ali as one of their own.

Mr Ali, storms a Respect leaflet, “has been put under terrible pressure – because he is a Muslim of Bangladeshi origin and for no other reason.” What, no other reason at all, George? Not the false CV, the IFE links, the moonlighting?

Only in Tower Hamlets could someone actually seek to make capital out of defending a person like Lutfur Ali. The attempt to claim him as a victim of “Islamophobia” essentially amounts to a demand that no Muslim may ever be criticised for anything, ever. The idea that defending one’s racial and faith identity must involve standing up for misconduct is not one that most Muslims will recognise.

Luckily, even in Planet Tower Hamlets, I get the feeling that not many people are buying. And in one sense, the leaflet does us all a favour. Its sheer stupidity further discredits the cynical playing of the race and faith card.  And it makes nakedly explicit what we’ve only suspected until now – that Mr Galloway’s Respect is nothing more than a sectarian creation based on the crudest invocations of race and faith.

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Pawn of Islamism? One Tory has a big decision to make

In describing the Islamic Forum of Europe’s infiltration into British politics, I’ve concentrated so far on Labour and Respect – because it’s those parties who have the most immediate problems. But the IFE’s cleverness, and its cynicism, is that it is working on the Tories, too.

Peter Golds, the Tory leader on Tower Hamlets council, bravely stood up with the Muslim moderates and against the IFE fundamentalists in my Channel 4 documentary. But his colleague Tim Archer, the Tory parliamentary candidate for Poplar and Limehouse, is rather different.

I’ve known for a while that Mr Archer has quite close and interesting relationships with the IFE’s headquarters, the East London Mosque. I’ve been prepared, until now, to put this down to the usual naivety of the white political establishment. Maybe, I thought, like so many others, Mr Archer believed the mosque’s spin about its commitment to “community cohesion” and “tolerance.” Maybe he didn’t realise the major inconsistency between what they say to the likes of him, and the hate and extremist speakers they regularly host.

But Mr Archer must by now know what has gone on at this mosque. As an active politician in Tower Hamlets, he must be aware of the stories that the Telegraph, Channel 4 and this blog have run over the last few weeks.

So I can draw only one conclusion from his decision to appear at an IFE event on 30 March at the East London Mosque whose purpose is to attack “media smearing of Muslim organisations” (code, no doubt, for our investigations). That conclusion is as follows: Mr Archer is perfectly willing to allow himself to be used as a pawn by Islamists if he thinks there might be a few votes in it.

Mr Archer will be appearing alongside a number of other speakers who have, shall we say, a famously friendly relationship with Islamism: Bob Lambert, the former head of the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit; Oliver McTernan, director of “Forward Thinking;” and that celebrated figure, George Galloway – who owes the IFE, in his own words, “more than I can say, more than it would wise for me to say.” Nobody, interestingly, from the Labour Party. But there will be Muhammad Habibur Rahman, recent former president of the IFE.

Mr Archer’s opponent in Poplar is another brave witness against East End Islamism, Jim Fitzpatrick (also invited to the event, but I fear unlikely to attend!). Perhaps the IFE is whispering in Mr Archer’s ear that if he stands with them, they will stand with him to oust the evil Fitzpatrick.

But there are some things that democratic politicians simply should not do to win votes. Among those things, I’d suggest, is legitimising a group opposed to everything your party is supposed to believe.

Just to remind Mr Archer one more time about his hosts. The IFE states: “Our goal is not simply to invite people and give da’wah [call to the faith]. Our goal is to create the True Believer, to then mobilise those believers into an organised force for change who will carry out da’wah, hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law] and jihad [struggle]. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen [an Islamic social, economic and political order].”

The IFE tells us that it is dedicated to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.” It “strives for the establishment of a global [my italics] society, the Khilafah … comprised of individuals who live by the principles of … the Shari’ah.”

The IFE’s “primary work” to create this state, the document goes on, “is in Europe [my italics] because it is this continent, despite all the furore about its achievements, which has a moral and spiritual vacuum.” Though they have spent the last three weeks doing a great deal of huffing and puffing about our “media smears,” the IFE has been totally unable to deny that these are its words.

And just to remind Mr Archer about some of the people to whom the IFE has previously given a platform: Gharait Baheer, spokesman for the Afghan warlord Gulbeddin Hekmatyar, whose forces have fought alongside the Taliban against British troops; Bilal Philips, an unindicted co-conspirator in the World Trade Center bombing; and Anwar al-Awlaki, spiritual guide to two of the 9/11 hijackers, the Fort Hood murder and the attempted Detroit plane bomber.

I have just a slight feeling that if Mr Archer does join that illustrious company, it could do him more harm than good. There are more opponents of Islamism in Poplar and Limehouse than there are supporters of it. If he gets on that platform, it is certain to be brought up during the Poplar campaign, in which I shall be taking a close interest. And how ironic it would be, even if Tim Archer were elected, that he achieved that distinction as the next George Galloway, the next figure who owes “more than he can say” to the IFE.

Breaking news: Fundamentalist-linked council official resigns

Lutfur Ali, one of the key figures in the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe/ East London Mosque’s influence over Tower Hamlets Council, has tonight resigned, the council confirmed. Mr Ali was the second most powerful officer on the council and his departure is a major blow to the fundamentalists. The IFE’s opponents are overjoyed. “This is the tipping point,” says Badrul Islam, one of the main local opponents of the group.

Mr Ali, a close associate of the IFE, was appointed assistant chief executive of the council on £125,000 a year despite a negative headhunter report and a misleading CV. He featured heavily in my Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on fundamentalist infiltration into London politics.

As we reported, Mr Ali has been accused of moonlighting for other employers – who only realised when they saw him in our documentary. Questions will be raised over whether the council was right to allow him to resign. Shouldn’t he have been sacked? And is he getting a payoff or any other benefits?

More to follow on this story later – a full statement from the council is expected within the hour. And I may also post on a completely ridiculous statement issued today by those celebrated champions of “moderation and tolerance,” the East London Mosque. Watch this space.

Islamists in power: key council sympathiser under pressure

It looks like one of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe’s key sympathisers on Tower Hamlets Council could be in trouble today.

Lutfur Ali was appointed assistant chief executive of the council – the second most important post – despite a damning headhunter’s report which described him as “superficial,” “rather limited,” and “one-dimensional.” They said he might “struggle with the intellectual challenges [of] a highly strategic role”.

Unknown to the headhunters, Mr Ali had also been forced to resign from a previous post at the London Fire Authority after breaking rules on political neutrality. He omitted this fact from his Tower Hamlets application.

Luckily, though, he did have what was almost certainly a more important qualification – close links to the IFE. He set up an organisation called the Centre for Muslim Affairs with a number of IFE and IFE-linked figures.

Now it is alleged that Mr Ali has been moonlighting – in council time – for an organisation called the National College for Leadership of Schools. The chief executive, Kevan Collins, confirmed to me that a complaint had been received from the college  – which acted after seeing Mr Ali in my Dispatches programme two weeks ago. A council spokesperson said: “We have received a letter from the National College, and it is being looked into.”

“Any allegations of that nature will be fully investigated,” Mr Collins said. “Every member of staff is under a contractual obligation to work full-time for the council unless explicitly stated otherwise.”

Approached on Saturday, Mr Ali did not deny the allegation, saying only: “I cannot make a comment on that because I need to check out exactly what the college have said.”

If the allegations are true, it is hard to see how Mr Ali can survive. If he goes, it is bad news for the IFE – and brilliant news for Tower Hamlets.  As well as being apparently unqualified for his job, he is in charge of grants – and under him, quite a lot of grants have been funnelled to IFE-linked organisations.

The council says they may have something to say about the results of their “looking into” in a day or so. I’ll be keeping an eye on the case. And if Tower Hamlets’ IFE-influenced political leadership somehow tries to brush the matter under the carpet, I think you can rely on a fuss being made.

Islamist Blogpost of the Day 8: Political Rules Are For Other People

THE fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe is fond of telling us that it is merely a bunch of  “democratic Muslims” seeking to take part in the political process – a line faithfully echoed by apologists like Inayat Bunglawala.

Here is the IFE’s real and rather more cynical approach to political participation and democracy, from the ever-gabby Azad Ali, its community affairs co-ordinator, on the group’s official blog on 5 November 2008: “I am still convinced that participation is correct, but my contention is that it should be on our terms… Why allow ourselves to be boxed in by ‘rules’ that are clearly designed to destroy us in this world and the hereafter? These rules are underpinned by the notion of secularism that is followed by immorality and basic deconstruction of the pillars of what a good society should be based on, according to God…. In engaging on terms that are not our own, we allow this malady to infiltrate us to the point where we have to compromise our basic principles, whether that be sexuality, interest (riba) or the application of the Revelation in our daily lives, vis a vis separation of religion from politics.”

 Seems like a fairly clear justification of – well – entering into politics on a deceitful basis to me…

PS: Azad also puts in a good word for those unfairly-maligned Hadd punishments – you know, stoning for adultery, chopping off a hand for theft, that sort of thing. Just the ticket for a man who’s adviser to the Crown Prosecution Service!

How the BBC betrayed liberal and moderate Muslims

No Islamist Blogpost of the Day today – it’ll be back tomorrow. Instead, here is my piece from this week’s Spectator magazine about an extraordinary East London Mosque propaganda-fest, otherwise known as BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions, which took place last Friday.

The producers of Any Questions were only the latest part of the white establishment to fall for the mosque’s spin that it is wholly committed to tolerance and harmony. But their failing is more serious than most – because they are supposed to be a sceptical, questioning news organisation.

As I put it in the piece, the BBC “allowed the mosque and the IFE to present themselves as mainstream, to peddle their grossly presumptuous claim that they speak for the Muslim population of Britain, and to claim any attack on their particular fundamentalist group as an attack on all Muslims.”

Read the full article here.

Islamist Blogpost of the Day 7: Sweep Out Of Power Those Who Question Us

The fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe have spent the last several days furiously denying claims by – among others – the Labour minister Jim Fitzpatrick that they bring electoral influence to bear, or organise against politicians. Unfortunately, a man named Abdullah Hasan doesn’t seem to have got the PR memo.

“How should Muslims respond [to the allegations]?” he says. “Simply by getting rid of Fitzpatrick… If Muslims in the constituency organise against him, they can either sweep him out of power or erode his majority… Muslims should… show malcontents such as Fitzpatrick the door.”

Oops!

That was from Mr Hasan’s personal blog last week, but you’ll have come across him here before – a few days ago, we told you about his post on the official IFE site with its confident prediction that “the disbelievers shall perish.” He’s a regular IFE blogger and is named as an IFE member on the Islamic Awakening website.

One of the reasons I’m sure the IFE will be defeated and exposed for what it is is that, for an organisation which swears its recruits to secrecy, it’s sometimes rather slack about message control.