Christmas at the East London Mosque: 'Season's Rantings' from your favourite Islamic extremists

In his richly-entertaining, car-crash interview with the BBC’s Stephen Sackur which I covered yesterday, Muhammad Abdul Bari, the chairman of the East London Mosque, was heavily pressed on his mosque’s unfortunate predilection for hate and extremist speakers, specifically the al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Dr Bari told Sackur that, while mistakes might have been made in the past, it was all quite different now at this renowned centre of tolerance and harmony. In one of the many hurt letters he has written to the media lately (the climate for Islamism seems to be turning rather chillier) he further insisted: “The controversial speakers who were able, in the past, to speak via third-party bookings of our facilities (circumventing our procedures) have now all been banned.

“All accusations of ‘extremism’ links are also historical: it is two years since the Awlaki issue arose, for example, and since then we have tightened our procedures and policies accordingly, to ensure no such issues arise again. Let me state once more: we deplore extremism of all kinds and fully support democracy.”

Oh dear, but what’s this I see – happening at the East London Mosque this evening, organised by our very dear friends the Islamic Forum of Europe? An event on “The Fiqh Of Social Ills.” Fiqh is normally translated as “understanding” or as “knowledge of the rules of God.”

It’s the last of a four-week seminar series. For the first two weeks the IFE’s “social ills” were pretty uncontroversial – “drug and alcohol abuse,” “domestic violence.” In week 3, it started to get a bit wackier – “jinn possession and black magic” was on the agenda. But tonight is the big one.

Tonight’s social ill to be condemned? That well-known scourge, “child-rearing in the Western context.” If the Western context, or society, around this mosque, can be described as a “social ill,” that doesn’t bode too well for cohesion and inter-community harmony, does it? Will the people at this seminar be raising their kids to mix with fellow Londoners of other cultures – or to stand apart from them?

For such a famously harmonious’n’democratic institution, the East London Mosque is perhaps over-fond of seminars decreeing what is and is not Islamically permitted. On 9 July 2009 the mosque’s London Muslim Centre had an event on the theme that “music,” too, was a “social ill.

The speaker at that one, Haitham al-Haddad, believes that music is a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace.” He opines more broadly (h/t Harry’s Place): “We always say that the conflict between Islam and the enemies of Islam is an ongoing conflict and we should pay a very high price for us, for Muslims, to gain their victory. And we should realise that victory cannot be gained easily and we should be pay the price of this victory from our blood, and Muslims are ready to do so.”

Gosh – that sounds pretty “controversial” and “extremist” to me. Thank goodness we have Dr Bari’s word for it that the mosque and London Muslim Centre’s “policies and procedures” have been “tightened… to ensure that no such issues arise again.” How lucky we all are to have Dr Bari’s assurance that the East London Mosque’s associations with such people are purely “historical.”

Oh, hold on a minute…

Happy Christmas everyone. Back on the 2nd of January.

East London Mosque: BBC puts Bari on the spot

As you know, I’ve previously criticised the BBC’s repeated PR offensive on behalf of the hardline East London Mosque. But last week they made up for it. The mosque’s chairman, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, who is also a former president of the Muslim Council of Britain and of the Muslim supremacist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which controls the mosque, was interviewed by the News Channel’s HARDtalk programme. The interviewer, Stephen Sackur, asked all the right questions.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dr Bari pressed so hard about the blatant lies and evasions which this self-proclaimed “centre of moderation and tolerance” has used to spin its hosting of terrorist and extremist preachers, such as Anwar al-Awlaki. He looked distinctly uncomfortable, as he indeed should have done. To the last, Bari doggedly persisted with the fingers-in-the-ears defence that nobody knew Awlaki was a bad guy at the time of the mosque’s last hosting of him. By the time Sackur was finished, this defence looked the absurdity that it is.

View the full show (for the next year) here. A transcript of the relevant section is below:

Stephen Sackur: It’s one thing to express worry [about terrorism] but keep it within the community, and quite another to go outside the community, to go to the state authorities. That is the key decision. And I want to know when exactly you would make that leap.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari: I know individuals who have gone to the police, informed the police. And if [a] situation like that occurs, when someone talks about action, and talks about violent action, then definitely that individual should go to the police and inform. Because at the end of the day, protecting our society and community from atrocities is our collective responsibility. And it’s our responsibility as well.

Sackur: If I may say so, Dr Bari, a very clear statement just there. How does it square with the decision taken by your own East London Mosque just two years ago to invite to speak, via live telephone linkup, one of the most dangerous extremist clerics in the entire world, Anwar al-Awlaki?

Bari: Can I clarify this. We have been clarifying this again and again. He spoke in 2003 in many mosques, including the East London Mosque. He was not known as a terrorist or extremist then.

Sackur: Let’s not focus on 2003. Some would dispute that and would say that something was known about him even then. But let’s bring it up to date, to January 2009, when the [London] Muslim Centre, which is a part of the complex of buildings which is the East London Mosque, when that Muslim London Centre decided to invite him both to present a video, a taped video, and then, as I understand it, to contribute a contribution on a [live] telephone link-up. Now this is a man by that stage who was being described by a senior US official as a significant player in al-Qaeda who had links to at least three of the 9/11 bombers.

Bari: We tried to clarify this. Two years ago, we didn’t know that. What happened –

Sackur: Well, I’m telling you that you did. Partly because the Daily Telegraph told you [several days in advance of the event], but also because the US official had put this on the record.

Bari: The Daily Telegraph came [out] on 27 December 2008. I was on holiday in Bangladesh with my family at the time. My management, when they got information from the Daily Telegraph, they talked to the police. They talked to the organiser. He [Awlaki] was not invited by the mosque. It was a pre-recorded video, er, er, talk by a third-party organiser. Our management talked to the police, our management talked to the organiser, and they just allowed this to go [ahead]. When I –

Sackur: Wasn’t that a terrible error? In retrospect, now that we know what we know – and you knew some of it beforehand – was it a terrible mistake?

Bari: With hindsight, I feel that was a mistake, that shouldn’t have been done. But at that time Awlaki was not known as Public Enemy Number One, or it was not that much.

Sackur: He was known. He was known as a pretty serious public enemy.

Bari: At least our management didn’t know at the time. So it was an error, and we made that correction later on, and we strengthened our booking procedure and vetting procedure, and we are very very strong about this now.

Sackur: Yeah, well, I hear the regret in your voice. But I just wonder whether there is a problem here of, of sort of wanting to have it both ways. You don’t want to be ordered around, you don’t want to be told what to think and what to do, that’s understandable. But when, for example, that same event was put on in your Muslim Centre, was advertised with posters which showed the Statue of Liberty in ruins, which appeared to show sort of fireballs landing on New York City – how could you ever believe that was appropriate, given what happened on 9/11? I just don’t understand, given everything you’ve said during this interview.

Bari: That was a stupidity at the time. What happens, people – when it comes to the Day of Judgment, you know the Biblical and Islamic, they put something very spectacular. And the mosque management at that time, because the history was not fully known, they didn’t realise that will be linked up with the 9/11 things.

Sackur: No, no, no. Come on. That’s simply not acceptable. You know – I’ve seen online the pictures – you know anybody looking at that poster would immediately have in their heads the terrible attack on New York City on 9/11. It’s impossible not to make the association. And given your ringing words today about your commitment to rooting out extremism and everything else, I simply don’t understand how you, as a senior figure in that mosque, could allow it to happen.

Bari: It’s a public – it’s community organisation, and we work with the local police. Our management has been working with the local police. And I am not an executive person in East London Mosque. And as I said, I was on holiday. So we made that error of judgment, it shouldn’t have been done, and it was done because, I discussed with the management, because there was no public information available to East London Mosque of his views [phon] at the time. And we regret that that happened, and we really are trying to streamline our booking processes and vetting processes.

Tomorrow, in my last post before Christmas, just how much the East London Mosque has “streamlined” its vetting processes.

Ken Livingstone funders deliver their Christmas present

(Updated – with result of legal action)

Transport for London has failed in its court bid to block a strike by the Tube drivers’ union, Aslef, on Boxing Day.

In 1996 Aslef signed an agreement for its members to work on Bank Holidays in return for higher pay and longer holidays. They are now paid more than £40,000 a year for a 35-hour week, and get almost seven weeks’ holiday a year.

Now, however, Aslef has demanded to be paid triple time – around £495 for the day, or around £70 an hour – for working on December 26, plus a further day off in lieu. That’s what the strike’s about.

After the bad weather earlier this week, London retailers were hoping for a boost from the Boxing Day sales. If the Tube’s not working properly, they won’t get it. Services at Christmas have already been reduced – until the 1980s, the Tube used to run on Christmas Day as well, just like public transport virtually everywhere else in the world. If Aslef gets its way, it could become impossible to run on Boxing Day too.

Boris Johnson, business leaders and virtually everyone you can think of have condemned the strike, and all the other – equally ridiculous – disputes mounted by the RMT and TSSA over various non-issues in the last three months.

But one doughty champion of oppressed Londoners has fallen completely quiet over Aslef’s threat to spoil Christmas reunions for thousands of people. Can Ken Livingstone’s silence be in any way connected to the fact that his campaign has received thousands of pounds in donations from Aslef?

Indeed, in all the months of Tube strikes, Ken Livingstone has never once condemned any of the unions. Can this be in any way connected to the fact that Ken’s campaign for mayor is run out of an office in the Euston headquarters of one of the other striking unions, the TSSA?

Last week, Ken’s running-mate, Val Shawcross, was pictured supporting the RMT and TSSA strikers. This week the man in charge of Ken’s campaign, Simon Fletcher, attacked as “terrible” a Guardian leader criticising calls for “coordinated industrial action.” The side Ken has chosen in these strikes is a useful reminder of where his true loyalties lie. In the rather unlikely event that he is elected mayor in 2012, he will not be working for Londoners as a whole – but for some of the city’s greediest sectional interests.

(Update: The actual address of Ken’s campaign office – Walkden House, 10 Melton Street, London NW1, ie TSSA HQ – was removed from his website after my original post. However several of his campaign materials, available online, still show it, until they too are doubtless taken down; don’t worry, I do have printouts. The contact information now given on Ken’s website is a c/o Labour HQ,  in other words a forwarding address. Which rather suggests he’s still with the TSSA.)

Congestion charge: a failure of arithmetic

Only three more days now until yet another beloved totem of the Ken Livingstone years – the western extension zone (WEZ) of the congestion charge – sleeps with the fishes. Even by the standards of late-period Ken, this was a truly bizarre policy – a congestion charge that did not, even in the slightest, cut congestion; and a tax which gave some of London’s wealthiest people an 80% discount.

With their usual unerring feel for the London political pulse, various Ken groupie blogs are already in pre-mourning for the WEZ, which Ken has promised to reintroduce if he wins in 2012 (though they do seem finally to have realised that defending the bendy bus is a lost cause). Boris Johnson has been accused, variously, of ignoring the results of a consultation on the zone or of sacrificing £55 million of precious revenue from it to TfL, revenue which could have kept down fares.

Actually, we did have rather a large consultation on this subject – it was called the 2008 mayoral election, you may remember it – which Boris fought on an explicit pledge to “get rid of” the WEZ. And as for fares, I seem to remember that Ken put some of them up by 25% in the same year that the WEZ was introduced, without even the excuses of cuts in government subsidies, a massive investment programme to pay for, etc.

On that £55m figure, too – as so often with Team Livingstone – when you look closely, large amounts of money seem to be unaccounted for. Net revenues to TfL in the final year of the C-charge without the extension, 2006/7, were £123 million (see page 3 of this.) Net revenues in the first full year with the extension rose to only £137 million (page 8 of this.)

That is a difference of £14 million, not £55 million. Even the rise in gross revenues (that is, before costs) was only £37 million, not £55 million.  “Transport for Livingstone” put about the £55m figure back in 2008, as part of its campaign to keep the WEZ.

There’s one other thing that Boris’s opponents always forget to mention. In January, the charge in the original central zone, which continues to operate, will rise by up to a quarter – from £8 currently to £9 or £10, depending on how you pay.

TfL states (p47 of this) that this will raise between £20 million and £25 million more (though it also stands to lose some penalty revenue, because the charge is being made easier and simpler to pay.) Knowing its tendencies, that might be an underestimate.

So even if you work on the basis that drivers’ money belongs to TfL rather than to them, the actual revenue impact of Boris’s changes to the congestion charge on the London coffers will be broadly neutral, or even slightly positive.

High-speed rail: Primrose Hill and Joan Bakewell largely spared. Shame about Belsize Park and a couple of council estates, though

High Speed Rail Two will bypass Primrose Hill
High Speed Rail Two will pass north of Primrose Hill (Photo: Heathcliff O'Malley)

Most of the “significant” changes “unveiled” to the London-Birmingham high-speed rail route by the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, today aren’t very significant, and nor were they unveiled today. They are in fact largely the changes unveiled in the so-called “supplementary report” published by HS2, the line’s promoters, back on 8 September. This is the kind of spin that used to give New Labour a bad name.

But there are at least two interesting and significant alterations that we hadn’t heard about before. Along the Northolt corridor and in the west London suburb of Ruislip, where seven streets were said by the council to be “at risk,” the land take has been reduced a bit, sparing by the looks of it most of the properties to be demolished (though not always their gardens, and of course the lucky inhabitants will still have a high-speed railway roaring right past them.) Download the map of the line here (it is the one ending 04004).

And just out of Euston, the line of the HS2 tunnel which was to have passed right under the upmarket Primrose Hill district has now been moved a bit to the north. It now runs beneath Gloucester Avenue, on the edge of the neighbourhood, and closer to the existing surface railway line. (Download here – the one ending 04001.)

Several hundred Primrose Hill houses could still suffer vibrations from the tunnel. Estimates published on the HS2 website (p23 of slides) are that properties within 100 metres are at risk. There will also be a new tunnel portal surfacing from the line on to the existing rail network near the Regents Park Road railway bridge, causing more disruption during building work.

But the line no longer goes right under the heart of Primrose Hill, nor does it pass directly beneath the houses of Dame Joan Bakewell, Robert Plant and Adam Ant (it still goes fairly near David Miliband’s gaff, alas.) Isn’t it great what fear of celebrity lobbying can do for you?

Sadly, in order to accommodate this change, the HS2 tunnel now curves into the southern end of a whole new wealthy neighbourhood, Belsize Park, going under Fellows Road and bringing upmarket Eton Avenue within vibration range. However, most of the new people impacted are council tenants on an estate along Adelaide Road.

Nor, though the Government may have taken fright at the massed ranks of the Primrose Hill brigade, has it done anything for a much poorer neighbourhood which will be far worse affected.

Just west of Euston station, five council blocks of the Regents Park Estate, with 220 flats and at least 500 residents, will be demolished to accommodate a widened station “throat.” From the plans, that looks like it hasn’t changed. And Euston itself will still be extended some hundreds of feet to the west, swallowing up at least a further 20 homes, 25 businesses including two major hotels, and most of a park, St James’s Gardens.

Less aggro for rich people – poor people treated even worse. Could this be Conservative government in action?

High-speed rail madness: some useful links

The continued meltdown of the country’s transport network (even though, at the time of writing, the last snow in London fell more than two days ago) is the best reminder we could need that, instead of wasting our money on flashy high-speed rail vanity projects, we need to get the ordinary, everyday basic network in order.

The gods, I thought, were making a particular point when they decreed that Eurostar, which uses Britain’s only existing high-speed line, should suffer some of the worst disruption.

Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, is supposed to be announcing the precise route of the new high-speed line today – but has instead spent his time fending off questions about Britain’s “third world” transport systems, to quote his predecessor Lord Adonis.

I’ve a piece in this morning’s paper examining the case for the new line made by its promoters themselves. The small print of their own prospectus makes, bluntly, an even more persuasive case against the project than anything produced by any Home Counties protest group.

It says, among other things, that the £17 billion project

–         could actually increase Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 26.6 million tonnes and that any possible reduction there is in CO2 will be “small… HS2 would not be a major factor in managing carbon in the transport sector.”  (Chapter 1 p7, Chapter 4 p180)

–         would only reduce road traffic by a tiny amount, for instance traffic on the southern section of the M1 would fall by just 2% over the next 23 years!  (Chapter 4 p175)

–         has a totally flaky business case, which depends on what even the prospectus admits is an increase in demand “of at least double today’s [historically high] levels.” (Chapter 4, p188.)

–         will devastate existing services to many places off the route – for instance:

–         Coventry will see its existing fast service from London slashed by two-thirds, from three trains an hour to one, and slowed down from 59 to 69 min (Technical Appendix 2, pp 17, 19 – scroll down the PDF past Appendix 1 to find Appendix 2).

–         Stoke on Trent will see its existing fast service halved, from two trains an hour to one, and slowed down from 84 to 87 min (Technical Appendix 2, p16).

–         Trains on the Great Western main line (GWML) from Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford, Reading and the like into Paddington will be slowed down so they can interchange with the high-speed route at a new station at Old Oak Common (chapter 4, p175).

–         London Overground inner-suburban services from Watford into Euston could be “removed” to make room at the station for high-speed services (chapter 3, p64.)

Even for travellers to Birmingham, the high-speed line won’t use the existing New Street station in the heart of the city centre, but a new terminal at Fazeley Street, on the eastern edge of the centre. So much of the time you save on the way will be negated by the less convenient location of the station in Brum.

And if you need to change to an onward local service (the vast majority of which will continue to use New Street) your journey will again be slower than it is now, because you’ll have to transfer between stations in Birmingham city centre.

Too much of the coverage of high speed rail has focused on the impact, devastating as that will be, on the Chilterns and other places. But this line’s real and fatal weakness is that it does not stack up in environmental, economic or even transport terms.

High-speed rail: most of the worst victims will be in London

High Speed Rail Two could affect Londoners most of all (Photo: Alamy)
High Speed Rail Two could affect Londoners most of all (Photo: Alamy)

Everyone thinks of the Government’s whizzy new high-speed rail route, due to be confirmed tomorrow, as mainly affecting relatively affluent people in the Tory shires. But in fact, as I explain in this morning’s paper, the vast majority of the worst victims will be poor and middle-income Londoners.

Near Euston, the London terminus of the route, the line will on present plans demolish much of a council estate, with the loss of 220 flats, home to at least 500 people. That’ll do wonders for Camden council’s waiting list!

Euston station itself will be extended several hundred yards to the west, swallowing up a further 20 homes and 25 businesses employing hundreds, including two major hotels. Most of a park next to the station, St James’s Gardens, will also go. See the plan for the area here.

In South Ruislip, again no great bastion of privilege, the local council says that seven streets – Bridgewater Road, Roundways, Lawn Close, Almond Close, Bell Close, Herlwyn Avenue and Blenheim Crescent – are “at risk” from the extra land take needed to widen the existing railway line.

And tens of thousands of Londoners in Primrose Hill, Swiss Cottage, Kilburn, Queens Park and Kensal Green are also at risk of vibration from tunnels under or near their homes. They include plenty of celebs (Joan Bakewell, Adam Ant, David Miliband, etc) – expect to hear more from them.

Tomorrow’s announcement might, I suppose, announce some measures to relieve the misery for London. But from the briefings we’ve been given, it doesn’t look like it.

The London end of this story has been almost totally unreported on until now. All the running has been made by the Chilterns. That seems likely to change. Many residents near Euston are very angry indeed at how invisible Labour-controlled Camden council has been in opposition to the scheme, unlike the local councils in Buckinghamshire and Ruislip. The local Labour MP, Frank Dobson, by contrast, has been outspokenly opposed, calling it “devastating” for his constituents.

I have a feeling that Labour as a whole could be waking up to the social, fiscal and environmental costs of the scheme, and coming round to opposing the link. The party’s transport spokeswoman, Maria Eagle, has recently appeared less than enthusiastic about the great dream. There’s nothing more dangerous than cross-party consensus, and one of the most encouraging things to happen to this deeply questionable project is that that consensus appears to be breaking down.

EMA: time to stop whingeing, kids

Yesterday’s Guardian had a story about the latest group of people to have their freebies taken away by the evil Tories – in this case sixth-formers claiming the education maintenance allowance (up to £30 a week) at the Brooke House, sorry “BSix” sixth-form college in Hackney, east London. Yes, that really is what the college officially calls itself.

Sadly, what was intended as a heart-rending tale of brutal hardship in fact demonstrated why this particular benefit – which is received by almost half of all UK sixth-formers –  is so often unnecessary. Three students were interviewed. James Adams, from London Fields, claimed to “spend most of it on travel.” This is surprising, and I wonder how he manages it.

The usual way to travel from James’s home in London Fields to the college, which is at the Clapton roundabout, is by bus, a journey of less than two miles and about ten minutes. And all sixth-formers in London get free bus travel. (God forbid, a healthy young person could even walk – it would take less than half an hour – or cycle.) Perhaps James is using his EMA to travel by taxi, or saving it up for an entirely different kind of travel. Ryanair has some good deals on student stag weekends, I’m told.

A second student, Helen Kassarate, also said she used her EMA to pay for, among other things, her travel and her glasses, describing it as “a necessity.” We aren’t told where Helen lives, but I dare say her journey is a bus ride, too (no tubes in Hackney) and will also be free. And sixth-formers who need glasses also get those paid for on the NHS. So much for this “necessity.”

The idea of EMA was to persuade teenagers to stay in full-time education. But as the Department of Education’s own research shows (page 11 of PDF), only 12 per cent of recipients said it made any difference to their decision (other research found the figure was just 6 per cent.) It is described as a benefit for the children of low-income families; but in fact, you can get EMA if your household income is as high as £30,800 a year, about £9,000 above the UK average.

Participation of 16-18-year-olds in full-time education did rise after EMA’s national rollout six years ago, but quite slowly for the first three years (from 57.9% of the age group in 2004 to 62.8% in 2007.) In the most recent two years for which there are figures, participation jumped at a faster rate, to 68% by 2009. But that was almost certainly driven more by the meltdown of the economy – and the consequent lack of jobs and apprenticeships for teenagers – than by government bribes. That lack continues, making it quite unlikely that we will see the mass college drop-outs predicted by some EMA supporters.

EMA is a classic Labour policy – an invented entitlement that not many people actually asked for and not many people actually needed, now defended with as much fervour and fury as if it were a decades-old pillar of the Welfare State like free medical care or old-age pensions.

I don’t object in principle to bribing kids to go to college – it’s a lot cheaper than some of the alternatives. But it seems to me that we can target our bribes on a much smaller number of teenagers without any noticeable reduction in effect.

Boris Johnson: get a grit


At about 2pm yesterday afternoon the Mayor tweeted: “Vast amount of snow but tube and buses coping well. London open for Christmas shopping.”

Five hours later, this was the picture on the TfL service status page (the sections of line on the map were those with problems):


If we are, as predicted, in for a hard winter, the meltdown of the transport network whenever there is more than a flake of snow will do huge damage to London’s economy. Another interesting thing, though, is that several of the delays weren’t snow-related, but due to signal failures, train breakdowns and the like.

Transport for London is the most generously-funded operator in Britain, by a massive margin. A substantial proportion of its network is protected from snow by being underground (including about 95% of the Circle Line, which nonetheless still manages to suffer “severe delays.”) When is Boris going to get a grip on this bloated behemoth?

Muslim Aid: Hopeless Charity Commission whitewashes yet another Islamist group

The Charity Commission, Britain’s most ineffective regulator, has once again whitewashed an organisation linked to fundamentalist Islam.

In March this newspaper reported on allegations that the charity Muslim Aid, a close associate of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe, had channelled funds to eight organisations linked to the terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Muslim Aid has admitted funding two of the organisations and has repeatedly refused to deny funding the other six.

Now, however, the Commission has published what it is pleased to call a “regulatory case review” into the charity saying that allegations of terrorist links are “unsubstantiated.”

It has only been able to reach this verdict by completely ignoring the vast majority of the allegations made against Muslim Aid, and by redefining the single allegation it did choose to “investigate” in a way which allowed it to exonerate the charity. By its own admission, it did not even investigate seven out of the eight allegations which it now claims are “unsubstantiated.”

The allegations made against Muslim Aid were as follows:

(1) that it had since July 2009 channelled money to six organisations linked to Hamas:

(a)  the Islamic Society of Nuseirat;

(b)  the Islamic Society of Khan Younis;

(c)   the Islamic Centre of Gaza;

(d)  the Islamic al-Salah, Gaza;

(e)  the National Association of Moderation and Development;

(f)    the Khan Younis Zakat Committee.

The allegations were made by security sources, who provided us with documentary evidence of the dates and amounts.

(2) that it in the year 2005 paid money to another Hamas-linked organisation, the Islamic University of Gaza.

(3) that it had paid money to the al-Ihsan Charitable Society, linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

(4) that it had extensively funded the Muslim Council of Britain, a UK-based political lobbying group. This is contrary to Muslim Aid’s declared charitable objects, which are “to relieve the poor, the elderly, children and all those who are in need in any part of the world as a result of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, droughts, famines, epidemics, poverty and plagues, to relieve those who are refugees fleeing from war zones and war victims.”

Repeatedly asked by us before publication, over a period of more than a week, Muslim Aid refused to deny the security source allegations that they channelled funds to any of groups 1 (a) to 1 (f). Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has Muslim Aid subsequently denied these allegations. It has admitted both to us and the Charity Commission – see paragraph 14 of the Commission’s report – that it did fund al-Ihsan. It has admitted, and its own accounts state, that it funded the Islamic University of Gaza and the MCB.

In its report today, the Charity Commission states that it decided only to investigate Muslim Aid’s links with one of the groups, al-Ihsan. The report states that the Commission was “not provided with sufficient evidence to support the allegation that [the] other named organisations [1 (a) to (f) and 2 above] funded by the Charity had the alleged links [to terrorism].” Consquently, it “did not carry out further investigations into payments to them. Given the seriousness of the allegations made, the Commission required material evidence in support of those claims in order for it to consider taking regulatory action.”

The Charity Commission’s statement that it was not provided with “material evidence” of the groups’ terrorist links is simply not true. Mindful of the extreme litigiousness of Islamist groups, we naturally conducted extensive pre-publication research on the links between the eight groups in 1,2 and 3 above and Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Our evidence, which runs to pages and pages, is shown at the end of this post. See whether you are convinced by it. I gave all this evidence to the Charity Commission (not that it ever asked me for it, by the way; indeed, I only learned that a regulatory case review had been opened into Muslim Aid by chance.)

In a letter to me, the Charity Commission’s head of compliance investigation, Iain Hewitt, dismissed the evidence I provided on the grounds that it was “media articles” and “journalistic reporting” (by such well-known purveyors of tabloid sensation as the BBC and the New York Times.) In the world outside the Charity Commission offices, media articles and journalistic reporting are how many abuses get exposed.

But as you can see in full at the end of this post, most of the evidence is not in fact media articles. It is official statements by the US Government, the Israeli government and the suspect organisations and their personnel themselves. It is official documents, websites and videos from the suspect organisations themselves. There are even a couple of YouTube videos of one of the organisations running a “terrorist kindergarten” with pre-school children waving Kalashnikovs. In his letter to me, Mr Hewitt gets round this little difficulty by saying that, well, all that is overseas or involving foreigh governments and it really doesn’t count.

The Charity Commission was unable to tell me tonight what actual investigations of its own it had done to determine that the allegations against Muslim Aid were “unsubstantiated.” Its report merely says that it “carried out a books and records inspection” and “checked a random sample of the charity’s partners against the list of proscribed organisations.” Muslim Aid must have been shivering in its shoes!

The Charity Commission’s behaviour is in direct breach of its own declared  counterterrorism strategy which states (my italics) that any “connections to proscribed organisations” are a “zero-tolerance issue” for the Commission. Its operational guidance note on charities and terrorism, OG96, states that “any links between a charity and terrorist activity are totally unacceptable. ‘Links’ in this case might include fundraising or provision of facilities, but also includes formal or informal links to organisations ‘proscribed’ under the Terrorism Act 2000 and any subsequent secondary legislation.”

Hamas has been proscribed, in its entirety, since 2003. Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been proscribed since March 2001. Therefore all the alleged donations we described – which again, I stress, Muslim Aid has either confirmed or has not denied – constitute “connections to proscribed organisations” and “formal or informal links to proscribed organisations.” As such, they should clearly be treated by the Commission, according to its own declared policy, as “totally unacceptable.” (The donations to the MCB are separate from this, of course.)

Muslim Aid states that it did not pay money to al-Ihsan after it was designated, in its own right, as a terrorist organisation in May/ June 2005. This claim is the slender thread on which the Charity Commission felt able to give MA the all-clear on the al-Ihsan issue. However, by its own admission, Muslim Aid did pay money to al-Ihsan in 2002 and 2003. At that time, al-Ihsan was already well known as having formal links to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, then as now a designated terrorist organisation. In December 2001, al-Ihsan was actually closed down by the Palestinian Authority (in the territories it controlled) for precisely that reason. (See the evidence below.)

The link between al-Ihsan and PIJ clearly brings Muslim Aid’s 2002/ 3 payments to al-Ihsan within the scope of the Charity Commission’s “zero-tolerance” anti-terrorism policy. The links between the other seven charities and Hamas also clearly brings Muslim Aid’s payments to them within the scope of its policy.

As well as ignoring all the specific security source allegations about Hamas charities, the Commission has also ignored the extensive general evidence about Muslim Aid’s alleged links to Hamas, which is widely available in the public domain but some of which is also set out below. Does it not, for instance, ring any alarm bells at all that Muslim Aid is banned in Israel and is named by that country as a member of the Hamas funding network, the Union of Good?

Finally, the Charity Commission’s report has also ignored the specific allegation made that Muslim Aid has acted in breach of its charitable objects by funding the Muslim Council of Britain.

This is the second time in a year that the Commission has deliberately ignored allegations made against a body linked to Islamic extremism in order to whitewash it. Earlier this year, it played the same trick in its report into the Islamic Shaksiyah Foundation, a group run by supporters of the racist, extremist sect Hizb ut Tahrir.

One starts to wonder what is the point of this organisation. Maybe it is time to decommission the Charity Commission.


(1a), (1b) Islamic Society (aka Islamic Association)

The Islamic Society is perhaps the most important Hamas civil society front. It is pan-Gaza – we named the Nuseirat and Khan Younis branches.

The Nuseirat branch website is

The logo on the website describes it (in English) as “Islamic Society,” the header on the website says “Islamic Association – Nusairat.” ‘Society’ and ‘association’ are the same words in Arabic.

The Islamic Society was closed down in December 2001 (when Fatah still controlled Gaza) as part of a Palestinian Authority crackdown on Hamas-linked organisations – the same crackdown that closed down al-Ihsan. See extract from BBC Monitoring report below:


January 1, 2002

Palestinian authority closes down Islamic institutions, societies, newspapers

LENGTH: 925 words

Text of exclusive report by an unidentified correspondent in Gaza, carried by pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Centre web site on 30 December

Gaza – The shutting down of Palestinian institutions by the Oslo police, affiliated with the limited administrative self-rule authority, has harmed tens of Palestinian families, who used to get their daily bread from these institutions. The Palestinian police forces launched a large-scale campaign on 15 and 18 December, closing a number of Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement and Islamic Jihad-backed institutions and societies, as well as some independent institutions in many parts of the Palestinian areas.

Following is the background of these institutions:

A. The Hamas-backed societies:

1. The Islamic Society: The society was founded in 1976 under a license from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Social Affairs, which both used to oversee the society’s missions, including financial aid to the needy and the poor. The society’s headquarters is located in the city of Gaza and has nine branches in the Gaza area. The society extends aid to 5,000 orphans, each receiving 120 shekels per month, and non-periodical aid to approximately 50,000 needy families. It also distributes school bags to 3,000 needy students at the beginning of each school year and extends 200 shekel to each family of about 500 poor families in financial aid per month. The society has 41 kindergartens embracing 6,000 children, as well as two health centres in the Shaykh Radwan and Al-Nusayrat camp treating the sick either at symbolic prices or free of charge.

The society has 300 male and female employees…..”

With Hamas’s growing strength in Gaza, the Islamic Society reopened after a relatively short period.

The Islamic Society was named as “part of Hamas’ social infrastructure” and as an “unindicted co-conspirator” by federal prosecutors in the trial of US v Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (charged 2006, convicted 2008 of financing Hamas; directors given life imprisonment 2009). See

Papers documenting funds transfers between the Holy Land Foundation and the Islamic Society were produced at the trial.

The papers make clear that there is an all-Gaza HQ and branches.

The Islamic Society sent an angry fax to CBS News protesting about their reporting on the HLF (“When you accuse them, you accuse us”):

You will notice that this time the header is “Islamic Society” and the logo is “Islamic Association.” Ahmed Bahar, the head of the Islamic Society, who signed this fax, is now a Hamas MP.

USAID, the US international development agency, was refused US government clearance to work with the Islamic Society because of “concerns re institution,” according to evidence produced at the trial.

(This document is also a useful demonstration that there are plenty of legit local NGOs in Gaza that Muslim Aid could have worked with.)

A video of an Islamic Society “terrorist kindergarten,” with uniformed pre-school children dressed as Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin and as suicide bombers, waving guns around, etc, was produced at the HLF trial – it is on YouTube,

Although the picture quality is not good enough to be absolutely sure, the logo below the platform does look like the one on the current Islamic Soc of Nuseirat website.

In another YouTube video of another “terrorist kindergarten,” the presenter introduces it as from the “Islamic Association.” See one of the videos on .

In 1993 the Islamic Society’s then head, Sheikh Hassan Deib, was asked if Hamas would give up its arms to the Palestinian police. He replied: “The military option is the only way to liberate the rest of Palestine. The struggle between us and the Jews is eternal . . . I expect Arafat [head of rival Fatah faction] to try to suppress us. If that happens, we’ll have to resist.” (Boston Globe 5.9.93.)

The following 2006 report from (US) National Public Radio provides a good general account of the Islamic Society/ Islamic Association’s activities and Hamas’s civil society network (it also mentions the Islamic University of Gaza.)

“National Public Radio (NPR)

February 14, 2006 Tuesday

SHOW: All Things Considered 8:00 PM EST

Palestinians Embrace Hamas as Legitimate Power



LENGTH: 1427 words


We’re going to learn more now about the Islamist Hamas movement and what led to its unexpected election victory. The U.S. and the European Union have labeled Hamas a terrorist organization. It has carried out more than 60 suicide bombings in Israel since 2000. But in the West Bank and Gaza, many Palestinians see Hamas as a legitimate force combating Israeli occupation, and they see the charities backed by Hamas as models of clean and efficient government. Here’s NPR’s Eric Westervelt.

(Soundbite of crowd of Palestinian women)


A crowd of some 50 Palestinian women, their heads wrapped in scarves, queue up on a cold morning outside a basement door at the Islamic Association of Gaza. These women, all widows or from needy families, are lined up to get one big plastic bottle of olive oil for free. Sadia Marad’s (ph) husband is disabled. She cares for three kids at home. Marad says she’s not sure what she’d do without the regular handouts of food, blankets, school supplies and clothes she receives from the Association.

Ms. SADIA MARAD (Palestinian resident): (Through translator) I depend on this. It’s very important. It helps me feed and educate my children and improve their lives. All thanks are to God.

WESTERVELT: Thanks also to Hamas. In the West, Hamas is better known for deadly suicide bombings and violent rhetoric. In the Palestinian territories, Hamas’s popularity is built and sustained in large part on its network of charities, schools and social service centers. After years helping to provide everything from eyeglasses to clean water, Hamas rode its promise of clean government to political power. In Gaza and the West Bank, where a weak and bankrupt Palestinian Authority struggles, charities like this have become the main safety net for the dispossessed.

Mr. ABDUL QADIR ATAR (ph) (Islamic Association): (Through translator) When there’s no strong authority or state, like here in Gaza, we take on those responsibilities.

WESTERVELT: Abdul Qadir Atar is director of the Islamic Association, which runs a massive charitable network across Gaza. He says with an annual budget of $2 million, his association helps some 50,000 Gaza families a year. It gives out food, medicine, even pays for summer camps and collective weddings for impoverished couples. Hamas has seen its aid work complicated by antiterrorist funding legislation in the U.S. and elsewhere. Many of these laws were strengthened after 9/11 amid evidence some charities were fronts for or were funneling money to terrorists.

Mr. ATAR: (Through translator) The U.S. and Europe have prevented donors from transferring money to some Islamic charities, saying these groups are connected to terrorism. Is it terrorism to provide a poor family with clothes, food and blankets? Is this terrorism?

WESTERVELT: Hamas tries to keep a legal wall between the movement and its charities. There are no Hamas emblems or signs here. Our charity supports all Palestinians, Director Atar is quick to say. But everyone in Gaza and the West Bank knows which charities are backed by Hamas. Atar’s boss, Dr. Ahmed Bahar (ph), was chairman of the Islamic Association until a few days ago. He stepped down after winning a Hamas seat in parliament….

In addition to its charitable networks, Hamas’s education programs have played a central, yet often overlooked, role in the group’s ascendancy. This is one of 43 kindergartens Hamas supports and runs across Gaza. Kids practice counting in a tidy room decorated with pictures of animals and letters. Many impoverished Palestinians can go from kindergarten to college, all subsidized by Hamas.

Some Israelis and terrorism experts say these Hamas schools often indoctrinate kids from the earliest age to hate Israelis and revere martyrdom and killing Jews. At Gaza’s Islamic University, founded by Hamas, study of the Koran is mandatory. Male and female teaching and study areas are strictly separated by a series of gates and walls.

(Soundbite of Hamas rally)

On a recent day, thousands of young men packed the University’s main courtyard. It’s a victory rally for these Islamist students who played a key role in Hamas’s electoral landslide. Several of Hamas’s current leaders came from the ranks of student activists here. Many of the University’s professors, the Dean of Students, and other key school officials, are all Hamas members….”

(1c) Islamic Centre of Gaza

It was created by the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in 1973 as a precursor of Hamas and remains strongly allied to it. Was one of the first outposts of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestinian territories.

It also featured in the 2006-8 Holy Land Foundation trial as a recipient of funds. Also named by federal prosecutors in the case as “part of Hamas’ social infrastructure” and an “unindicted co-conspirator” (see weblinks above.)

It was condemned by the US attorney-general as a Hamas organisation as early as 2004.

It was banned by Israel as an “unlawful association” on 25 Feb 2002.

(1d) Islamic al-Salah (aka al-Salah Society)

It is described by the US government as “one of the largest and best-funded Hamas charitable organizations in the Palestinian territories” and a “key support node for Hamas.”

It was designated by US as a sponsor of terrorism on 7 August 2007, ie before Muslim Aid allegedly donated. See which also lists its various names.

(1e) National Association of Moderation & Development

It is a semi-official body linked to the Hamas administration in Gaza (its president, Munir Perch, is a senior official in the health ministry) and which does various joint activities with the administration and the Islamic University of Gaza. Among these, according to its 2007 annual report, are events called “Meet the masses” at which members of the Hamas leadership meet the public.

It was banned by Israel 25.10.09 as an “unlawful association” for its links with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The frontpage of NAMD’s website has a banner for CBSP, a French charity banned by the US and Australia as a funding front for Hamas.

NAMD’s website (in the “news” section) mentions Muslim Aid –

A Wall Street Journal investigation in 2007 implicated NAMD in what is called “trade-based money-laundering” for al-Ihsan/ Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Briefly, CBSP provided money for NAMD and a trader called Fayez Abu Aker to buy relief supplies. Some supplies were bought with the money, but it is alleged that the profit from the deals was passed to Hamas and al-Ihsan. Some of the deals were also allegedly financed by a Hamas-supporting Iranian group called the Organisation for Supporting the Intifada.

Abu Aker and his companies are now banned in Israel as “unlawful associations.” Western companies (including British ones) which have arranged deals with him have cancelled after being warned off by the authorities, the WSJ investigation found.

(1f) Zakat Committee of Khan Younis

It was banned by Israel as an “unlawful association” on 25 Feb 2002

(it is shown as “the charity and grace committee- Han Yunes.” Zakat means charity in Arabic.)

It also came up in the HLF trial in 2006-8.

It was one of a number of organisations whose bank accounts were confiscated by Israel “as part of the struggle against financing terrorism,” specifically Hamas. See last page of the following.

(2) Islamic University of Gaza

Muslim Aid has paid at least £325,000 to the IUG. The university, created in 1978 by the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, is the main training ground for future Hamas leaders and dozens of its current leaders also teach, or have taught, there.

“A stronghold of the radical Hamas group.”  (New York Times)

“A key training ground for the movement’s leadership.” (Washington Post)

“The overlap of [Hamas] and the school [university] is nearly seamless. Scientists and academics at the university double as Hamas technocrats: doctors, engineers, economists, teachers, and media specialists. The Islamic University serves as an employment program and intellectual retreat for Hamas leaders, giving a perch to the prime minister, the foreign minister, and bureaucrats in charge of ministries.” (Boston Globe)

“Openly controlled by Hamas leaders. Sheikh Yassin and former Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantisi used Islamic University as a base, as has Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian government and a member of the school board of trustees.

“To give a feel for the political climate on the campus of this institution, 78 percent of the student council vote went to Hamas.” (Rep Tom Lantos, when chair of the US House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee)

The university is another one of the institutions to have had its bank accounts confiscated by Israel for alleged links to terrorism. See last page of the PDF

Its rector of advanced studies, Dr Ahmad Abu Halabiyah, has been quoted as saying that Jews should be “butchered.” ( Friday sermon, PA TV, 13 October 2000.)

(3) Al-Ihsan (aka Elehssan, al-Ahsan)

Muslim Aid admits to funding al-Ihsan in 2002 and 2003. By this time it was already universally known as a front for (Palestinian) Islamic Jihad, which has been conducting terrorist attacks since the late 1980s.

Al-Ihsan was “de-registered” – in fact closed down – as a PIJ front by the Palestinian National Authority as early as December 2001, well before Muslim Aid donated to it. See the following:

“Los Angeles Times

December 14, 2001 Friday
Home Edition

Islamic Groups Hasten to Save Assets;
Aid: Faced with being shut down, Palestinian charities rush to clear their offices.


SECTION: PART A; Part 1; Foreign Desk; Pg. 30

LENGTH: 986 words


The morning after the Palestinian Authority announced that it would shut down offices associated with Islamic militant groups, employees of the Elehssan Society rushed to work to cart away anything of value.

“The last time the sulta [Palestinian Authority] shut down Islamic offices, they kicked in the doors, confiscated everything, and we never got it back,” Mohammed Afifi said Thursday. The 27-year-old computer programmer volunteers at Elehssan, a charitable organization run by Islamic Jihad. “We’re not taking chances this time,” he said….”


January 1, 2002

Palestinian authority closes down Islamic institutions, societies, newspapers

LENGTH: 925 words

Text of exclusive report by an unidentified correspondent in Gaza, carried by pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Centre web site on 30 December

Gaza – The shutting down of Palestinian institutions by the Oslo police, affiliated with the limited administrative self-rule authority, has harmed tens of Palestinian families, who used to get their daily bread from these institutions. The Palestinian police forces launched a large-scale campaign on 15 and 18 December, closing a number of Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement and Islamic Jihad-backed institutions and societies, as well as some independent institutions in many parts of the Palestinian areas.

Following is the background of these institutions:…

B. The Islamic Jihad-backed institutions: ….

3. The Al-Ihsan charity Charity Society: It was established in 1997. It provides financial and in-kind aid to the poor and the needy and runs a number of kindergartens. It maintains its main headquarters in the city of Gaza and has six branches in the Gaza area….

Source: Palestinian Information Centre web site in Arabic 30 Dec 01″

Al-Ihsan went underground in the West Bank and has resumed open operation in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

There are various references to al-Ihsan as a front for Palestinian Islamic Jihad during 2003 and 2004 (eg Washington Times 13.12.03,  Associated Press 26.2.04,  Agence France-Presse 19.5.04.)

According to Israel, a large part of al-Ihsan’s purpose is to support the families of suicide bombers.


Union of Good/ Hamas link with Muslim Aid and its officers and trustees

The US has designated the Union of Good as a sponsor of terrorism, saying it is an “organization created by [the] Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization.”

Israel says that Muslim Aid is a member of the Union of Good:

This has been previously reported (eg in the Times, 5 September 2008, without any complaint or correction being sought by Muslim Aid.

The current chair of Muslim Aid, Iqbal Sacranie, was a trustee of the Union of Good, see for instance

Another trustee of the Union of Good was Ahmed al-Rawi, whose brother, Khadem, is a Muslim Aid executive committee member and trustee. Ahmed told the Sunday Times in 2004 that he supported attacks on British troops in Iraq: “If they (the British) attack, it’s the right of the civilians to resist the British. Any people who are occupied, they have the right to resist. I prefer it to be peaceful, but if they choose to resist by other means it’s their choice.” (31.10.04,

The charity is clearly shown as “Muslim Aid, London” on the official Israeli declaration list of “unlawful associations”:

Iqbal Sacranie and Hamas

Iqbal Sacranie attended a memorial service in London for the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, after he was killed by an Israeli rocket strike. Speaking at the service, he praised Yassin as a “renowned Islamic scholar.”

He was challenged on this by John Ware in the 2005 Panorama programme on the MCB:

John Ware: It’s one thing supporting the Palestinians and it’s another, isn’t it, supporting the theological justification which Sheikh Yassin gave to the murder of civilians.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie: He may have given that –

John Ware: Well there’s no may about it, he did, he was the spiritual leader and the ideological leader of a terrorist movement.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie: In your terms, if it means fighting occupation is a terrorist movement, that is not a view that is being shared by many people. Those who fight oppression, those who fight occupation, cannot be termed as terrorist, they are freedom fighters, in the same way as Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid, in the say way as Ghandi and many others fought the British rule in India. There are people in different parts of the world who today, in terms of historical side of it, those who fought oppression are now the real leaders of the world….

John Ware: What signal does it send when the general secretary, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain goes and pays homage to someone who supports suicide bombings in Israel?

Sir Iqbal Sacranie: Well –

John Ware: Hang on, what kind of signal does that send to young Muslims in Britain?

Sir Iqbal Sacranie: If your whole question is based upon one aspect of that person’s belief in terms of supporting it, we look into the wider picture. The suicide bombing that you’re referring to is one aspect of the whole struggle.”

Full transcript here:

Other links between Muslim Aid and Hamas sympathisers: IFE

Muslim Aid is closely connected to the Islamic Forum of Europe and East London Mosque (which is controlled by the IFE). All three organisations share the same premises. Muslim Aid has paid at least £550,000 to the ELM and £40,000 to the ELM’s school, the London East Academy. The IFE and ELM websites host Muslim Aid press releases. The Muslim Aid annual review 2007, p16, describes IFE as “one of Muslim Aid’s most active donor groups.” Muslim Aid has organised joint events with IFE, eg a prayer for Gaza in the East London Mosque on 17.1.09.

Mohammad Hamid Hossain Azad, a trustee and previously acting chief executive of MA, is a trustee of the IFE. Mohammed Abdul Bari, trustee of MA, is chairman of ELM and former IFE president. Chowdhury Mueenuddin,  trustee of MA, was until recently vice-chair of the ELM.

The IFE is openly pro-Hamas – for instance its community affairs co-ordinator, Azad Ali, has called for a worldwide Islamic caliphate under the leadership of Hamas and described Hamas on the IFE’s official blog (15.1.09) as a “true resistance movement that is standing up for the rights of the Palestinians.”

The editor of the IFE website, Muhammed Amin, said during the Gaza conflict in early 2009: “Hamas must not accept this gimmick of a ceasefire. Better to die as defiant human beings than live as caged animals, left to slowly wither away… Surely it is better to die a quick death at the hands of the Ziono-fascist war machine – and become Shaheed [martyr] no doubt – than die slowly and without the world knowing.”

Another IFE blogger, Abu Umar, has said on the organisation’s official blog (1.1.09): “Let us be clear, like the majority [of] people in Gaza, Hamas=Gaza and Gaza=Hamas… Hamas represents the only remaining resistance…To simply label Hamas as just ‘terrorists’ is oversimplification…If the Palestinians had fighter jets, tanks and the latest US missiles do we think there would be ‘suicide bombings?’”

The IFE has issued press releases defending Hamas, eg on 16.1.09.