The IFE shows its commitment to openness and inclusion

I popped down this afternoon to the East London Mosque, headquarters of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe, to check how they were taking my little expose of them on Channel 4 and in the Telegraph yesterday.  You may remember that the programme included a Labour minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, saying that his party had been infiltrated by the IFE – which believes in sharia law, jihad and wants to create an “Islamic social and political order” in Britain – and the council leader, Labour’s Lutfur Rahman, rather conspicuously refusing to deny it.

Anyway, one of my friends in the Bengali media told me the IFE had called a press conference today to give its response to my story. Sadly, it turned out to be a press conference at which some press were unwelcome. Turning up at the IFE offices in the mosque with a group of our Bengali colleagues, they were admitted while both I and the Express’s Ted Jeory, the only white reporters in the group, well, weren’t.

It was, said Azad Ali, the IFE’s community affairs co-ordinator, standing in the doorway, a “private meeting,” and not a press conference at all (something denied by all the Bengali journalists I spoke to – two said they’d been sent texts by the IFE describing it as a press conference.) Work still needed in the openness and inclusion department, I think, guys!

I enjoyed meeting Mr Ali face-to-face for the first time – after all that undercover footage we took, I feel like I’ve known him for ages – and considering the difficulties I must have caused him, it wasn’t too bad-tempered. I sort of liked him, actually.

He did want to know if I was carrying a secret camera (no – we’ve got other people to do that stuff – but I don’t blame you for asking) and he’s clearly a reader of this blog, because he referred to something I’d said in a previous post. I said I wanted to meet him properly and he ended up offering to go out for a curry some time – next thing you know, we’ll be releasing a Christmas single together. Or an Eid single. Is there such a thing as an Eid single?

It was a faintly bizarre experience walking through the mosque’s business wing this afternoon, and through the familiar streets of Whitechapel. I did get the odd double-take, but no-one was even slightly hostile – another sign that even if the IFE has been rather too influential in the politics of the area, it doesn’t really represent the feelings of ordinary people.

One thought on “The IFE shows its commitment to openness and inclusion”

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