Lutfur Rahman councillor arrested

Tower Hamlets council has confirmed that one of Lutfur Rahman’s key supporters on the council, Cllr Shelina Aktar, has been arrested. Sources allege she is also under investigation by the council for sub-letting her council flat.

The council states to Ted Jeory: “We can confirm that Councillor Shelina Aktar is still a councillor for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The matter over which she has been arrested is being investigated by the police.”

Multiple sources claim that a Rahman-supporting councillor has also in fact been convicted of an offence of fraud. Neither the police nor Councillor Aktar will confirm this and I do not know whether it is the same councillor.

By my count, this is already the third bad story for the Lutfur mayoralty in less than a month. The car-crash is happening even sooner than I expected…

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Islamist sympathisers admit they are losing ground in government

Over the last few months, I and others monitoring Islamism’s influence inside the British state have started to believe that the tide is turning. Last week one of British Islamism’s most important fellow-travellers, a man called Bob Lambert, appeared to confirm my view.

When Lambert was head of the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit, he exemplified a view shared by some others in the security establishment: that we can anoint “good Islamists” and use them as a bulwark against the “bad Islamists.”

The showpiece for this approach is the North London Central Mosque, also known as the Finsbury Park Mosque. The mosque, formerly home to Abu Hamza and a centre of terrorist recruitment, was closed after a police raid in 2003. On its reopening, in a deal brokered by Lambert, it was essentially gifted to an Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain. The new leadership were certainly more moderate than Abu Hamza – not terribly hard – but they have close links with another designated terrorist organisation, Hamas.

Last week, in an article for the al-Jazeera website, Lambert defended a decision by some of his other Islamist allies, such as the East London Mosque, to host meetings with the terrorist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. At first reading, I merely enjoyed Lambert’s piece as a rare full bingo card of all the techniques from the I-Spy Book of Advanced Islamist Rhetoric (lofty pseudo-academic tone? Check. Calling anyone who disagrees with you a “neo-con”? Check. Wilfully misrepresenting what they actually said? Check. Labelling as “speculative” any facts you don’t like? Check.)

But then I noticed, buried near the end, Lambert’s significant admission that “the weight of think-tank and media opinion appears to have discouraged the Government from adopting and promoting the Finsbury Park model.” Hurrah! The trustees of Finsbury Park include Mohammed Sawalha, described by the BBC’s Panorama as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his perch in London. The mosque’s spokesman, Azzam Tamimi, has justified suicide bombings against civilians (but only Israeli ones, so that’s all right, then.)

Lambert’s policy was a tamer version of the securocrats’ disastrous pre-9/11 misjudgment, the so-called “compact of security,” when they allowed Hamza and other al-Qaeda sympathisers openly to use London as a base in the touching belief that it would somehow count in our favour with Osama bin Laden. At Finsbury Park, Lambert legitimised fringe minority radicals as authentic, mainstream voices. Glad he knows he’s been rumbled.

Lutfur Rahman: Ken Livingstone is put on the spot

A reader alerts me to a fascinating moment on the BBC’s Daily Politics show earlier this week. At the start of the programme, Ken Livingstone quite rightly condemned the lies told by supporters of the disbarred former minister, Phil Woolas, about his opponent. But when the questioning later turned to the extremist-backed Lutfur Rahman, someone whose supporters told far worse lies than Woolas? Well, that was rather different.

This was also the first time, I think, that Ken has been put directly on the spot about his campaigning for Lutfur – and against Labour. Watch how easily Andrew Neil bats away his feeble defence: a properly-briefed interviewer is a marvellous thing. Ken also has his usual go at me – it’s amazing how large I seem to loom in the poor man’s life, but always good to know he keeps up with this blog…

The Lutfur section starts 13 minutes and 35 seconds in to the programme, but a full transcript is below.

“Andrew Neil: Why should Labour people go out and campaign for you when you campaigned for Labour’s opponent in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election?

Ken: No, no, I made it quite clear, I called for a vote for the Labour candidate. But this is one of these Alternative Vote things. What I said was, you must use your second vote for the person that the local Labour people selected.

Neil (laughing): You said the Labour candidate wasn’t credible or competent. That’s hardly campaigning for him! You said people should vote for a candidate that isn’t credible or competent?

Ken: That was the problem. And that’s why Labour got a quarter of the vote, and got a pasting. And I think Labour will learn a lot from that. You can’t impose people.

Neil: You did, really, campaign and wanted to see this Lutfur Rahman winning, and he wasn’t the Labour candidate, didn’t you?

Ken: He’d been selected by local people, I think the NEC was wrong to remove him. It’s had real shades of me ten years ago.

Neil: But he loved it. He said, I’m grateful to him for coming here to support justice, I’m very happy to have his support.

Ken: I know.

Neil: Against the Labour candidate!

Ken: I would have been quite happy to go down with the local Labour candidate, but he didn’t want me around, because he’s been one of my opponents for a long time.

Neil: You were attacking Phil Woolas, though, for smears and so on. But here are you, backing a man who distributed 90,000 copies of a Bangladeshi freesheet which carried smears [on] the Labour candidate, the man you’re supposed to be supporting, calling him “the wife-beating candidate” and a racist!

Ken (smiling): It’s very dirty politics down in Tower Hamlets. No-one denies that.

Neil: Much worse than anything Phil Woolas said. And you’re backing this guy!

Ken: I mean, I don’t believe Lutfur Rahman put that [out]. A lot of dirty stuff was circulated, always has been, and one of the reasons I wanted a directly-elected mayor in Tower Hamlets is so you move away from that very sectional politics to someone who has to appeal very widely. And Lutfur Rahman’s been subject to a long smear campaign by Andrew Gilligan. Well, that immediately suggests that he can’t be all bad.”

The fact that Lutfur is opposed by me appears to have become the main argument used by his supporters – see also here and, even more comically, here. Given the actual charge-sheet against Lutfur, I think you’ll need to do better than that, lads.

Lutfur Rahman puts fundamentalist sympathiser in charge of the money

More problems in Tower Hamlets (Photo: David Rose)
There are empty seats on Tower Hamlets' council cabinet (Photo: David Rose)

Lutfur Rahman, the fundamentalist-backed mayor of Tower Hamlets, held the first meeting of his new cabinet today – and it was rather a thin affair. Three weeks on from his election, despite waving around a great deal of money in “special responsibility allowances,” Lutfur has still not been able to persuade anyone of substance on the council to serve with him. It emerged today that he has only been able to fill half the cabinet’s eight slots, plus the deputy mayor’s position (which he announced two weeks ago would go to his supporter Ohid Ahmed.) Only three of a potential 10 cabinet members, including Lutfur himself, attended the meeting today. There were a lot of empty seats around the table.

The four posts Lutfur has filled are all from the ranks of the councillors who defected from Labour to him before the election. They include Alibor Choudhury, a man with even closer links than Lutfur to the Muslim supremacist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe. Alibor has, incredibly, been given the key post of cabinet member for resources – that is, he will be in charge of the money.

Alibor was previously development and communications officer of one of the IFE’s front organisations, a drugs project called Nafas. In a tape-recorded interview with my colleague Ted Jeory, the IFE’s own president at the time, Muhammad Habibur Rahman, admitted that Alibor had “associations with” the IFE. Alibor also has a deeply unsavoury past. In 2005, he appeared at a committal hearing in connection with a gang attack. His case was never sent to trial after he argued that he had been subjected to “abuse of process”. More about Alibor on this blog in the days ahead.

The other three members of the cabinet are Oliur Rahman, for children’s services; Rania Khan, for regeneration; and Rabina Khan, for housing. At least one of these also has connections to the IFE – more about them soon, too. Peter Golds, leader of the Tory group, called the new cabinet “some of the weakest councillors in the chamber.” He would say that, of course – but others privately share his opinion.

The cabinet does not only lack experience and competence, but fails to reflect the communities which make up the borough. Like Lutfur’s group of councillors, it is 100 per cent Bangladeshi, though Tower Hamlets is only around 35-40 per cent Bangladeshi. In that respect, it mirrors Lutfur’s first proposed cabinet in his former incarnation (2008- May 2010) as council leader – also entirely Bangladeshi, though on that occasion he was dissuaded from proceeding with a mono-ethnic lineup.

This time Lutfur desperately wants some people from outside the ranks of his supporters in his cabinet. But so far absolutely nobody has taken the bait, not even his main non-Bangladeshi ally under his previous leadership, Marc Francis, who was expected to defect today. Maybe he has left the slots vacant in the hope of future defections. Interestingly, however, Mr Francis’ main specialism, housing, has already been filled.

So far, therefore, it does appear that the decision by the other parties to treat Lutfur as a leper is holding. Here’s a reminder of why that might be.

Lutfur Rahman will not be readmitted to Labour

There is “no chance” that the extremist-backed mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, will be readmitted to the Labour Party, sources close to the London regional party have said. A move by Ken Livingstone to propose Lutfur’s readmission at the 30 November meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee has also been blocked, the sources said. Livingstone, radical Islam’s single most important supporter in British politics, has met Ed Miliband to press for Lutfur’s rehabilitation after openly campaigning for Rahman during his election, against the official Labour candidate.

“The message has been passed to Ken very clearly from Ed Miliband that Lutfur will not be allowed back in to the party,” a senior Labour source said. “He has been told to shut up.” Livingstone himself was indeed notably back-peddling in today’s Evening Standard, now saying merely that “there is a lot to be said for letting all this calm down and seeing how Lutfur performs.” Livingstone also said he could not “put a timescale” on Lutfur’s readmission. The Labour Uncut blog, which broke the story of Livingstone’s move yesterday, quotes his spokesman as saying that Ken will now not be raising the issue of Lutfur Rahman at the NEC meeting on 30 November.

Two Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets, Shahed Ali and Kabir Ahmed, tonight pledged their “support for working with” Lutfur Rahman, though it’s not quite clear what this actually means. Mr Ali sent an email about 30 minutes ago to Labour members insisting that he has “not resigned from either the Labour Group [on the council], or the Labour Party.” I think that if you take a job with Lutfur, that’s exactly what you have done, Shahed!

I can quite understand why Mr Ali is a little confused by the matter of party allegiance. Like several of Lutfur’s other councillor defectors, this will be the third party identity he has enjoyed in less than four years. He was first elected for Respect, then defected to Labour (around the time that Lutfur became leader if my memory serves me right) and has now re-defected to the Independent camp around Lutfur. Party loyalties in Tower Hamlets are delightfully fluid – a year or two ago, one councillor defected straight from Respect to the Tories!

Over the last two weeks, Lutfur’s been waving around job offers to literally everyone in sight (even the Lib Dems and the Tories). The opportunity to receive lucrative special responsibility payments, er sorry the opportunity to bring all communities together in One Tower Hamlets, was bound in the end to net a few – though tonight’s two are not especially credible catches. As Winston Churchill said, you can rat, but you can’t re-rat.

More interesting are the strong rumours that Marc Francis, Lutfur’s closest supporter in the Labour group, may also announce his defection to Lutfur tomorrow. Mr Francis was a cabinet member and would break the, so far, 100 per cent Bangladeshi make-up of Lutfur’s ruling cabal. Let’s just hope he reads the first two paragraphs of this blog before he makes his decision, shall we?

Lutfur Rahman: Ken Livingstone says bring him back into Labour

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, rather conspicuously failed an early test of leadership last month. He refused to take any action against his London mayoral candidate, Ken Livingstone, for openly campaigning against the Labour candidate, Helal Abbas, and for an extremist-backed independent, Lutfur Rahman, in the recent Tower Hamlets mayor election. (Livingstone appeared on television three days before the election with his hand around Rahman’s shoulder, describing Abbas as not a “credible candidate.” This would normally be an expulsion offence.)

Rahman was sacked by the Labour Party amid deep concerns over his links with the Muslim supremacist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), and with a number of powerful local businessmen. The IFE has hosted the radical terrorist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki (star of much of last week’s airline bomb plot coverage) and believes, in its own words, in transforming the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”

Now Ken – the single most important supporter of radical Islam in British politics – has pushed home his advantage. According to the Labour Uncut website, he has met Mr Miliband to press for Rahman’s early readmission to the party – and will propose a motion to that effect at the party’s National Executive Committee, of which he is a member, on 30 November. Team Miliband has apparently given the plea a sympathetic hearing.

The horror this has caused in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party – still furious at the way Livingstone sabotaged their campaign – cannot be underestimated. A senior Tower Hamlets Labour Party source said: “We would be totally against this. For somebody who chose to leave the Labour Party and run as an independent only a few weeks ago to be readmitted would be outrageous.” Only two weeks ago, the Tower Hamlets Labour group of councillors – still the largest on the council – voted to have nothing to do with Rahman and even several councillors who were expected to help him have refused to do so.

I can see the advantages for Livingstone in Lutfur’s readmission. It would wipe away some of the stain of Ken’s having campaigned against his own party. It would also be a huge thank you for the very special favours the IFE and radical Islamists did him in the 2008 mayoral election, when they were able to magic (out of thin air, some say!) thousands of previously elusive Ken Livingstone votes.

 The advantages for the Labour Party, however, are much less clear. If anyone from Mr Miliband’s office comes across this blog, Lutfur:

1. achieved the leadership of Tower Hamlets council in 2008 with the help of the IFE, who councillors say threatened them on Lutfur’s behalf.

2. appointed a man closely connected to the IFE. Lutfur Ali, as assistant chief executive of the council (even though he was unqualified for the job and was dismissed as a candidate by the council’s own headhunters), then effectively sacked the council’s secular, white chief executive. Lutfur Ali was present at Rahman’s mayoral campaign launch and is now expected to return to the council.

3. handed large and growing sums of council money to IFE front organisations.

4. moved council funding from secular, multicultural organisations to groups closely connected to the IFE.

5. presided over the stocking of Tower Hamlets libraries with extremist literature, including hundreds of audio tapes of sermons by Awlaki.

6. proposed to “Islamically brand” the multicultural Brick Lane with “hijab arches.”

7. signed up entire families of sham “paper” members to ensure his nomination as Labour mayoral candidate, several of whom told us they do not even support the Labour Party.

8. enjoyed the backing of prominent local racists and anti-Semites, one of whom organised meetings for his campaign and appears to have signed his nomination papers as mayoral candidate.

9. benefited from the close support and patronage of a local millionaire businessman, Shiraj Haque, who has openly stated: “I needed someone to fix [Tower Hamlets politics], so I thought let’s try him [Lutfur].”

10. is currently under police investigation  (interviews are currently under way with witnesses) for allegedly failing to declare substantial donations by Mr Haque and others to his campaign, as electoral law requires;

11. won the election after his supporters distributed smear literature falsely claiming that Mr Abbas was a racist, a wife-beater and an enemy of Islam.

I should stress that despite reporting all this repeatedly here, on Channel 4’s Dispatches and in the newspaper over the last nine months, we have received no complaint or challenge from Rahman. Complaints made by others against us to Ofcom and the Press Complaints Commission have without exception been dismissed.

Among Tower Hamlets council’s first actions since Lutfur became its head is to hand out CDs in its Town Hall of sermons by an extremist preacher who has said that “Islam is incompatible with democracy” and that men should have the right to beat their wives – the first controversy in a mayoralty which is likely to become a political and media car-crash.

These are the reasons why Lutfur Rahman should not be readmitted to the Labour Party.

Lutfur Rahman council promotes extremist preacher who supports wife-beating

Does a London council support Muslim extremists? (Photo: Getty)
Does a London council sanction the preaching of extremists? (Photo: Getty)

Two weeks after the extremist-backed politician, Lutfur Rahman, became mayor of Tower Hamlets, his council has placed CDs of sermons by an extremist Islamic preacher in its Town Hall.

The preacher, Abdur Raheem Green, has stated that “Islam is not compatible with democracy.” He also says that a husband has the right to administer “some type of physical force… a very light beating” to his wife, to prevent her from committing “evil.” There is, of course, a considerable irony here. You may remember that Lutfur won the mayoralty with the help of smear literature falsely claiming that his Labour opponent was… a wife-beater.

The CDs are being handed out to council workers and visitors as part of an official council-sanctioned display mounted in the Town Hall reception area from last week by an organisation called One Reason. Two councillors have been given them and have passed them to me.

One Reason’s website includes a link allowing you to order the Green CD and a clip of one of Green’s sermons. The YouTube link from One Reason’s homepage connects to the YouTube channel of an organisation called iERA, whose advisers include

– Green;

– Bilal Philips, described by the US an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the 1993 al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center;

– Zakir Naik, banned from the UK for saying that “every Muslim should be a terrorist;”

– Haitham al-Haddad, who believes that music is a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace;” and

– Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, another man with extremist connections.

Several of these people have also preached at the hardline East London Mosque, the chaps whose backing for Lutfur has proved so important in his political career.

As I showed in August, iERA successfully duped the Guardian newspaper into reporting, on the basis of its research, that 75% of people believed Muslims had made a negative contribution to British society (the actual figure was less than half that.) iERA’s agenda, there as elsewhere, is to foster distrust, division and suspicion between communities in much the same way as the BNP.

In a piece I think even he may come to be embarrassed by, another Guardian writer, Dave Hill, today continues his inexplicable one-man effort to whitewash Rahman. Lutfur will, we learn, “reach out to every community” and “lead by example.” He is, we’re told, a “first-class chap” and a “good person.” If only Dave had taken the trouble to look around him when he was waiting in reception for his PR chat, he might have seen just who Lutfur’s council is in fact “reaching out” to.