One of the main conclusions I drew from my Telegraph/Channel 4 Dispatches investigation of the East London Mosque was quite how gullible some parts of the white establishment were in the face of a persuasive PR machine telling them what they wanted to hear.
Since we exposed some of what actually goes on inside this mosque, there has been a welcome reduction in the number of politicians and suchlike prepared to visit. But one key part of liberal Britain, the BBC, retains a trusting faith in the mosque’s spin that no amount of contrary evidence appears able to shake.
In March, as I wrote here, the BBC allowed its flagship discussion programme, Any Questions, to be hijacked by the mosque. That could, conceivably, have been carelessness. But last week the Corporation went one step further. Its BBC1 documentary on the East London Mosque, Middle East Enders (available to watch here for another day) was quite simply a licence-fee-funded, half-hour advertorial.
As the narrator put it: “Today, the East London Mosque takes great pride in its open-door policy towards believers and non-believers….While some Muslims publicly burned the Satanic Verses, a new generation of trustees seized the chance to try to live up to the mosque’s founders’ values” of “promoting harmony between faiths.”
Then in came the mosque’s director, Dilowar Hussein Khan, to tell us all that “the East London Mosque [has] played an instrumental role in uniting East London Muslims and reaching out to non-Muslims, building bridges… We are also re-engaging now with the wider society. This is something that we want every single mosque in this country to do.” There followed a heart-warming tale about how the mosque had battled through adversity and racism to become a beacon of tolerance, concluding with someone saying that if only the “wonderful relationship” the mosque had with its neighbouring synagogue could become a model for Palestine.
As we reported, and as the BBC must have known, the East London Mosque is in fact controlled by, and is the headquarters of, an Islamic supremacist group called the Islamic Forum of Europe – which, in its own words from one of its own leaflets, is dedicated to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.” It has been accused by the local Labour MP of infiltrating his party to achieve these ends.
In another leaflet, the IFE says 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.”
“Our goal,” said the leader of the IFE’s youth wing, Mohammed Rabbani, to new recruits in June last year, “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].”
Life in the IFE’s Islamic social and political order would be different from the way it is now. “Protect yourselves from all types of haram [forbidden things] … music, TV, and freemixing with women in that which is not necessary,” the IFE recruits were told. “Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that,” says the IFE’s community affairs coordinator, Azad Ali.
In keeping with its spirit of tolerance, bridge-building and harmony between faiths, the East London Mosque has hosted such notably tolerant and harmonious meetings as, for instance, the half-day conference on ‘social ills’ on 9 July last year. One of the “social ills” — with an entire session to itself — was “music,” described by one of the speakers, Haitham al-Haddad, as a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace.”
Then there was the talk, on 26 June 2009, by a certain Bilal Philips — named by the US government as an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. And if that particular outrage was a little too tolerant and harmonious for the dedicated holy warrior — only six people died — the East London Mosque was also kind enough to host, on 1 January last year, a video address by Anwar al-Awlaki, spiritual leader to two of the 9/11 hijackers. This event was advertised with a notably bridge-building poster showing Manhattan under bombardment.
Or then there was the mosque’s even more tolerant and harmonious event with a man called Murtaza Khan – who told his audience that women who use perfume should be flogged – and the harmonious, tolerant “Spot The Fag” contest run, at the mosque, by an anti-gay preacher called Abdul Karim Hattin. There’s been a big rise in gay-bashing in that part of East London lately – but it can’t have any connection with the tolerant, harmonious views preached at the mosque, of course.
In the year to March 2010, the East London Mosque hosted at least 18 hate, fundamentalist and extremist speakers, many more than once. Over the past few years, there have been dozens — all approved, and many explicitly endorsed, by the mosque authorities themselves (in March 2008, for instance, Mr Philips was invited to deliver the Friday sermon).
I describe this at some length so you will know just how much publicly-available evidence the BBC had to ignore. The mosque has huffed and puffed, but hasn’t been able to challenge any of it. The programme-makers’ other error was to accept the mosque’s ridiculous claim that it has “united East London Muslims” behind the bridge-building, harmonious ideology of the IFE.
No doubt the mosque would like us to believe that Islam and itself are the same things. But the simplest research would have found that this mosque is viewed with deep suspicion by many East London Muslims, not least because the locals are mostly of Bangladeshi (not “Middle East”) origin and the IFE fought against the very creation of Bangladesh. Not a single one of the mosque’s numerous local Muslim critics was interviewed, with the entire programme consisting of a parade of East London Mosque trustees, employees, associates and supporters.
I’m not asking, of course, that the programme-makers share my view of the East London Mosque. But unlike with Any Questions, they must have known of the existence of substantial evidence which contradicted the happy story they set out to tell. Failing even to mention it makes them, to my mind, guilty of propaganda.