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.