Fundamentalists in London politics: new links emerge

In March, we reported how a Muslim fundamentalist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, had infiltrated Tower Hamlets council. One of the key allegations from many councillors was that the then leader, Lutfur Rahman, was helped into his position by a senior official of the IFE, who canvassed councillors on his behalf. In an interview with me, Mr Rahman refused to deny this charge – you can read the full transcript here.

You’ll notice that in our transcript we omitted the name of the IFE official – we just called him “Mr A.” This was on legal advice – we and all our sources were sure about his affiliations but we did not have enough evidence to connect him publicly to the IFE.

Today, however, we can reveal that “Mr A” is Hira Islam, a Tower Hamlets council officer, former trustee of the IFE-controlled East London Mosque, director of a number of IFE-linked companies and senior member of the IFE. Hira Islam’s was the name we put to Lutfur in the interview. His was the help and canvassing that Lutfur refused to deny receiving. Lutfur did deny, however, that Hira made any promises or threats to councillors on his behalf. Hira himself refused to comment, when approached.

We can give you Hira’s name thanks to Ted Jeory, the former deputy editor of the local paper, who has just posted on his excellent blog a transcript of a taped interview he did last year with the then president of the IFE, Mohammed Habibur Rahman. I’ve heard the tape myself, too. The IFE president states that “Hira Islam is part of IFE, of course he is… he is working with us.”

Another allegation, made by the local Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, was that several Tower Hamlets councillors, as well as Lutfur Rahman, had connections to the IFE. We named one councillor at the time – Abjol Miah – as an IFE activist, because despite his denials we had substantial evidence for this. Last week, Miah lost a Press Complaints Commission complaint against us for describing him as an IFE activist.

Now, thanks to the same Mohammed Habibur Rahman interview, we can name another councillor who Mr Rahman states has “associations with” the IFE (though is “far too busy with his politics to do anything else.”) He is Alibor Choudhury, who under Lutfur Rahman’s leadership held the key job of cabinet member for employment and skills. Mr Choudhury is a former manager of another IFE-linked organisation, Nafas, which has received a great deal of money from Tower Hamlets council.

It’s good to be able to fill in some of these names at last. And it’s all still relevant. Although Lutfur Rahman was replaced as council leader after our expose, he wants to come back as Tower Hamlets’ first directly-elected Mayor. The selection for Labour’s candidate is on September 4 – an event which will be of very great importance for the future of non-sectarian politics in this part of Britain.

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