As I’ve noted, the BBC has this year broadcast a couple of programmes that were essentially propaganda for the hardline East London Mosque. The programmes faithfully followed the mosque’s PR script that it is a beacon of liberalism and tolerance; only mosque officials and supporters were interviewed. The substantial evidence of the East London Mosque’s links with extremist and hate preachers was entirely ignored, and the mosque’s many critics, Muslim and non-Muslim, were nowhere to be heard.
Yesterday, Radio 4’s Sunday programme aired a report marking the mosque’s centenary and, in the words of the presenter, “sharing in the celebrations of the worshippers.” This time the BBC did a little better. They did, at least, interview one solitary critic, Delwar Hussain, sandwiched among three mosque supporters. They raised the mosque’s most controversial visitor, Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist preacher linked to at least eight attacks, including 9/11.
However, adequate journalism this was not. Here is the BBC’s version of the most recent Awlaki meeting at the mosque, in January 2009:
“Reporter: In recent years [the mosque] has been the focus of some criticism, hosting as it does other Muslim groups not formally part of the East London Mosque itself. And that, says Dilowar Khan [director of the mosque], is why an administrative oversight occurred recently, allowing the recorded sermon to be heard, on their premises, given by the radical Islamist and alleged inspiration behind a number of terrorist attacks, Anwar al-Awlaki. Booking procedures, says Mr Khan, have now been tightened.
Dilowar Khan, mosque director: It needs to be noted that the mosque actually condemned the views of Anwar al-Awlaki – on record, on our website, you would see that, when he supported the shooting at Fort Hood [after the meeting at the mosque]. That was the time it became apparent to most of the Muslims that his views are not compatible with the Muslims in the West.”
For Mr Khan to claim that Awlaki’s booking was an “administrative oversight” and that nobody knew of Awlaki’s views at the time is, like many claims made by the East London Mosque, simply untrue. Five days before Awlaki was due to speak there (not just by “recorded sermon,” by the way; there was also a “live telephone Q&A”) this newspaper alerted the mosque to the fact that Awlaki had been described by the US under-secretary for intelligence, in a speech more than two months before, as a spiritual leader of two of the 9/11 hijackers. His links with terrorism had in fact been endlessly publicised, including in Parliament, from about 2003 onwards.
On two earlier occasions, one of them at the mosque, Awlaki was also hosted by a group which very much is “formally part of the East London Mosque” – the Islamic Forum of Europe, the hardline Islamic supremacist body which controls the mosque and of whom no mention whatever was made by the BBC. A senior official in the IFE wrote in 2008 of his “love” for Awlaki.
The BBC could and should have checked all this in five minutes on Google – my own recent post on the matter has links to all the relevant primary sources. And if it had caught Mr Khan out in that lie, perhaps it might have raised doubts over his other claims about the mosque’s liberalism.
So committed, in fact, is the East London Mosque to liberalism and community cohesion that it has hosted dozens of other extremist preachers – from Bilal Philips, described by the US as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, to Haitham al-Hadad, who believes that music is a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace,” and Murtaza Khan, who told worshippers that women who wear perfume should be flogged.
Contrary to any attempt to distance them from the mosque, many of these and other speakers have been officially hosted by it. In 2008, for instance, Philips was invited to deliver the official Friday sermon. The BBC could and should have mentioned this, too.
It should not be the BBC’s role to “share in the celebrations” of anything, let alone the East London Mosque.
The Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, takes what looks like a swipe at Boris Johnson in today’s Sunday Times. “The level of roadworks in London is completely out of control,” he says. “I don’t think anyone could describe driving in London as a pleasure.”
In the last ten days, amid the snow meltdown in transport and the wretched pre-snow performance of the Tube, even Ken Livingstone has been unable to miss the open goal. He has achieved an historic first, an attack line against Boris that might actually have some traction – “Get a grip.”
Eighteen months before the election Boris is, I think, more or less where he wants to be on most of his issues. After his sacking of Ian Blair, the Met has ceased to be a running sore, and crime is still falling. There are signs, at least for the moment, that the London economy is heading in the right direction, and perhaps more quickly than the rest of the country. Ken’s great hope, government spending cuts, will probably affect London less badly than anywhere else, because its economy is less dependent on the public sector – and Ken has messed up his attack on the cuts anyway.
But transport, the mayor’s biggest issue of all, is the great exception and headache. In the long term, with Crossrail happening, things look all right. But in the run-up to the election, Hammond’s salvo is the latest reminder that Boris hasn’t really “got a grip” on Transport for London, the bloated giant (complete with 231 managers on six-figure salaries) which he inherited from Livingstone.
TfL simply hasn’t adjusted to the new, post-crash world. Its costs are still ridiculous, limiting the mayor’s scope to do new things. How did it manage to spend £23 million on the first two cycle superhighways – which amount to little more than blue paint on a road? In Barking, it has spent £26 million on changing the number of one existing bus route (the 369, which has now become the “East London Transit”) and extending it a mile to the east through an almost totally deserted industrial wasteland in which it virtually never picks up a passenger.
These two projects alone cost about a quarter of the money raised by this year’s fare increase.
Transport is the area where the fewest of Boris’s manifesto promises have been kept. He promised to “make traffic flow more smoothly” and “rephase traffic lights” in order to “cut congestion.” But TfL’s policy is now merely to “review” traffic light timings, slowly, and few of the absurd numbers of traffic lights installed under Ken seem to have been significantly re-phased, or removed. On one road near me, there are 11 sets of lights in less than a mile, controlling even junctions with minor side streets and including several pelican crossings which turn red throughout the day and night even when no pedestrian is near.
The object, no doubt, was to further Ken’s war on the hated motorist – still fervently endorsed inside “Transport for Livingstone” – but bus passengers and cyclists are just as badly affected.
TfL has frustrated Boris’s promise to “promote greater use of the river.” It has quietly removed the high-frequency Thames Clipper commuter service from its new river timetable booklet, given out on piers and at stations and information centres, and now only includes the tourist boats. The only timetable information it now gives for the commuter service is an almost incomprehensible summary sheet, downloadable from its website.
TfL hates things it does not directly control and has been consistently hostile to Thames Clippers, despite the entire service consuming only a twentieth of the subsidy given to one single bus route (the East London Transit above.) Far from being “promoted,” the service is now less than when Boris took office.
TfL has simply refused to reinstate tidal flow in the Blackwall Tunnel, another manifesto promise, and has watered down the mayor’s new Routemaster. Pledges to extend the Tube for an hour on Friday and Saturday nights, and to work for a no-strike agreement, also appear to have been quietly shelved.
But most important, of course, is the Underground’s poor day-to-day service. TfL cannot be blamed for the recent wave of industrial action – which strikes more than one observer as a fairly cack-handed attempt to help Ken’s re-election campaign- and on which the public broadly backs the Mayor anyway. But it can be blamed for the recent serious disruption to the Tube on non-strike days, and the ongoing, endless weekend closures, which never seem to make the slightest difference to the service. My old paper, the Standard, splashed with “Come back Boris and take charge” the other day.
I know Boris is worried about all this. He had a furious row with Peter Hendy, TfL’s boss, recently. Hendy is, of course, the man who plotted with Livingstone’s chief of staff during the 2008 election campaign to “refute Boris’s transport ideas.” The buck stops, however, not with Hendy but with the Mayor. Boris needs a TfL which is working for London, not for itself or for Ken Livingstone.
One aspect of Robert Lambert’s richly comic “Islamophobia” report that I didn’t cover in my post yesterday is its chapter on my Channel 4 Dispatches programme about the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and Tower Hamlets. The chapter is written by someone who, the report says, “has asked to remain anonymous on this occasion.” Wisely, I think.
The argument of my nameless critic is that I and my witnesses have got it all wrong. Lutfur Rahman, the council leader (now mayor) in Tower Hamlets, wasn’t dumped by Labour because of his close links with the IFE. It was instead, apparently, because the “white New Labour elite” wanted to “systematically marginalise” the Bangladeshi community; and because Lutfur’s “brand of left-wing populism represented a direct threat to the established hierarchy within Tower Hamlets Labour Party.”
As Ted Jeory, former deputy editor of the local newspaper, points out, this is a blatant rewriting of history. Jeory covered the council closely and often saw Lutfur in action. Rahman was in fact, he says, “one of Labour’s main ringleaders against Respect’s populist Left-wing policies and motions in the council chamber.” As for the charge of racism by the “New Labour elite,” Lutfur’s principal opponent, Helal Abbas, is himself a Bangladeshi.
Jeory also describes the Lambert report’s dishonesty over one of Lutfur’s most discreditable episodes – his hiring of Lutfur Ali, an ill-qualified CV cheat with close links to the IFE, as the council’s assistant chief executive, followed by his effective sacking of Tower Hamlets’ widely-respected chief executive, Martin Smith. In Lambert-land, this is presented as “by no means extraordinary,” a statement described by Jeory as “inaccurate and disingenuous in the extreme.”
My own favourite bit of this chapter is the anonymous author’s lip-trembling outrage at Labour’s decision to put the local party into “special measures” – something amply justified by the extraordinary movements in its membership, which rose by 110 per cent in a matter of months and saw dozens of new “members” joining on the same day, sometimes up to eight of them in a single two-bedroom flat. Many of the new members had the same names as people we can link to the IFE. “Special measures” meant that such “members” no longer had a say in selecting Labour’s council candidates.
To our bashful writer, this was the Tower Hamlets equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. “Special measures have the same essential characteristics as a so-called ‘state of emergency,’ whereby state authorities are free to override the law and even the constitution in the interests of national security,” he says. “This culture of impunity has enabled a series of abuses.”
The sheer silliness and lack of proportion here is striking. The Labour Party constitution gives head office the perfect right to intervene if it suspects manipulation or corruption. On behalf of the dark forces of neo-con evil which I am said to represent, I hereby promise that Lutfur Rahman will not be assassinated by an unmanned CIA drone or bundled off in an orange jumpsuit.
Almost as stupid is the claim, earlier in the report, that the Dispatches investigation prompted an upsurge of “intimidation” in Tower Hamlets by the English Defence League. What actually happened is that fifteen members of the EDL paid a visit to a local pub, and an even smaller number subsequently came back to the same pub. A planned demonstration by the group never took place. To my knowledge, there has not been even one single incident of violence or intimidation against the East London Mosque as a result of my film; I’m quite sure the mosque would have let us all know if there had been.
From the Islamists’ point of view the real problem, of course, with Labour’s behaviour in Tower Hamlets is that it is pushing them out of the party they so carefully infiltrated. Islamists still, through Lutfur, exercise power in the borough – but only as outcast independents with no good future in front of them. I can quite understand why our anonymous author isn’t happy about that.
I’ve been in the Far East for a few days, so I missed the big launch of Robert Lambert’s Islamophobia report at the East London Mosque on Saturday. But now I’ve got back, what a very special treat it is!
Bob Lambert, as readers of this blog will know, is a former policeman who has turned himself into one of Britain’s most important fellow-travellers of Islamism. As head of the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, he brokered the deal which turned over the North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park, to supporters of the terrorist group Hamas. He has also fiercely defended the hardline Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and its East London Mosque.
He is now an academic, generously funded by various Islamist groups and specialising in pseudo-scholarly defences of his clients – at least for the moment. I say that because the report he produced last week, under the name of Exeter University, must surely cause the Exeter authorities to ask whether they can any longer afford to be associated with him.
Reading it, I felt almost embarrassed for Lambert and his co-author, Jonathan Githens-Mazer, at having produced something so hopelessly weak. Far from being an academic or even pseudo-academic work, it is a political rant, and not a sophisticated one.
What else are we to make of passages such as the following, from page 14 of the report, about the people, sorry the “extremists,” who argued that Tory politicians should not attend October’s Islamist “Global Peace and Unity” event, where material glorifying terrorism was openly on sale:
“We conceive these extremists as neo-conservative ‘Know Nothings’, who, like their earlier American mid-19th century namesakes, represent a narrow view on British politics. Membership is limited – by class, by network, by education, by ideological orientation, and mostly by cliquishness. …They alone seek to define membership in the British club – on their terms or no terms at all, and is [sic] more than vaguely reminiscent of Lord Tebbit’s ‘cricket test’.”
Or this, about the anti-Islamist think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation (page 136):
“[F]rom the guide books to colonial counter-insurgency and Cold War counter-subversion…government and police chiefs have created and promoted the work of the Quilliam Foundation. We therefore refer to the government’s support for the Quilliam Foundation as discrimination because it treats Muslims unfairly and in a way that would not be countenanced in respect of other minority communities in the UK.”
Or the extraordinary passage about the IFE’s former president, and current head of the East London Mosque, Mohammed Abdul Bari, that opens this “academic research report:”
“Dr Bari is not the first advocate of social justice to be attacked by extremists from opposing ideological standpoints. It is no co-incidence that old Labour socialists Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn were attacked as ‘sell outs’ by Frank Furedi, Claire Fox, Brendan O’Neil and Mick Hume when they were leaders of the vanguard Revolutionary Communist Party in the 1980s and then, in contrast, as ‘diehard socialists’ when the revolutionary communists re-invented themselves as extremist liberals in the 2000s. Unwittingly, [Quilliam Foundation researchers] [Ed] Husain, [Maajid] Nawaz and [Shiraz] Maher are following the same path as Furedi, Fox, O’Neil and Hume in wearing new ideologies like new coats. Significantly, in both instances, the switch from a revolutionary ideology in youth to a reactionary ideology in early middle age is advantageous in terms of political influence, personal pecuniary advantage and economic security.
“Just like Benn, Livingstone and Corbyn, Dr Bari has not moved an inch in his commitment to social justice while his arch detractors have undergone role reversals. Indeed, just as extremists like Husain and Fox often mature into reactionary scourges of their younger selves mainstream politicians like Benn, Livingstone, Corbyn and Dr Bari invariably stay true to their political principles throughout their mature years.”
This is semi-deranged, the stuff of Private Eye’s Dave Spart.
The “research report’s” core “findings” are equally preposterous. They are, inter alia, that there is at the moment an outbreak of what the authors quite seriously call “terrorism” against Muslims in Britain. They say:
“Terrorism and political violence against Muslims is our deliberate and considered choice of description for a range of serious threats faced by Muslim communities in the UK… Threats of political violence from a diverse extremist nationalist milieu are every bit as credible as those that fall under an al-Qaeda umbrella… the government should treat both terrorist threats with equal importance and in the same way…. Violent extremist nationalists in the UK have a present capacity to inflict death and destruction on a scale that is broadly comparable to their UK counterparts who are inspired instead by al-Qaeda.”
I think “broadly comparable” in this context must mean “not comparable at all.” The number of Muslims killed by “violent extremist nationalists” in Britain is nil, or very close to it. The number of people killed by al-Qaeda is 52.
Over the last ten years, half a dozen or so white right-wingers have indeed been convicted of possessing explosives and other weapons. But all were loners who were not acting in concert with any group, nor in most cases did they have any specific plans or targets. By contrast, there have over the same period been 127 convictions for Islamist-related terrorism in the UK, plus a number of other British subjects or residents convicted in other countries, and a number of further cases currently going through the British courts. Many of these convictions relate to serious and carefully-organised plots against specific targets involving substantial numbers of people.
The authors get round this little problem by redefining terrorism. In their words: “Terrorism cannot be understood only in terms of violence. It has to be understood primarily in terms of propaganda. Violence and propaganda, however, have much in common. Violence aims at behaviour modification by coercion. Propaganda aims at the same by persuasion. Terrorism can be seen as a combination of the two.”
Lambert and Githens-Mazer are undeniably well-qualified to talk about propaganda – but to equate, say, the anti-Muslim frothings of the English Defence League with the murder of people on the London Underground is an abuse of language that would not be tolerated in a tabloid newspaper, let alone an academic report.
Even on the actual violence side of their argument, there’s a problem. Lambert and Githens-Mazer claim in their report that there has been “an alarming rise in what can best be described as anti-Muslim hate crime.” They say that “violent attack[s]” against Muslim women wearing the niqab, burka or hijab “have become commonplace in parts of the UK.” They say that “intimidation and violence against Muslims has become warranted and routine” and that many Muslim communities are under a “state of siege.”
Though these are described as “research findings,” the report gives no research or evidence whatever to back any of them up, and no figures. Indeed, there are none to give. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), police have only been breaking down hate crime data into five strands, one of which is faith, since 2008.
We can, however, attempt to see whether Lambert and Githens-Mazer have a point by looking at overall hate crime figures in heavily-Muslim areas. Here, for instance, are the figures for race and/or faith hate offences in London’s main Muslim borough, Tower Hamlets. The majority of these, of course, would not have been crimes of violence.
I chose Tower Hamlets because the vast majority of its non-white population is Muslim, and therefore most of the victims here would have been Muslim. And the truth, in this borough at least, is the polar opposite of what Lambert and Githens-Mazer claim. In this Muslim area, there has been a 50% reduction in hate crime.
The figures for the first four years are from April to April and are from the annual reports of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Race Hate Crime Forum. The figures for the last two years are October to October from the Met Police website.
In England and Wales as a whole, according to the latest Home Office statistics, the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences has fallen by 11.4 per cent over the last four years for which figures are available (page 20 of this PDF.)
As I say, statistics for purely faith hate crime alone going back over a long period are harder to find. But the latest online minutes of the Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum, for the meeting held on 5 October 2010, show that in the months of August and September there were – wait for it – a grand total of sevenfaith hate crimes reported to the police in the borough, not all of which from the description in fact appear to be faith hate crimes. The previous minutes, for the 15 June meeting, showed a total of eight faith hate crimes between April 1 and June 14, of which only two were against Muslims.
It is true that earlier this week new figures from ACPO showed a year-on-year rise in reported faith hate crimes in England and Wales as a whole. These numbers, however, were not available to Lambert and Githens-Mazer when they wrote their report, and are described by Acpo as having been published this week for “the first time.”
Nor is it clear what faiths the victims were – if Tower Hamlets is any guide, the majority will not have been Muslim – or whether the increase is a longer-term trend (the only two years for which figures are available are 2008 and 2009, and it is unwise to compare figures for two years in isolation.)
Finally, according to ACPO, the total number of reported faith hate crimes, for all faiths, across the whole country, over the whole of last year was 2,083 – or six a day – less than half the number of, for instance, homophobic hate crimes. And again, the vast majority of those 2,083 crimes would not have been violent.
Buried deep in Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s report is the coy admission that, for all the authors’ inflammatory claims about waves of Islamophobic terrorism and communities under siege, there is, ahem, “insufficient data to establish [the] scale of anti-Muslim hate crimes.”
Even Britain’s Muslims themselves have, it seems, been distressingly reluctant to furnish the authors with the longed-for apocalyptic picture. Quite the funniest part of the report is where Lambert and Githens-Mazer complain that with many Muslims they interviewed “anti-Muslim hate crime was implausibly denied or demonstrably neglected by Muslim interviewees who had direct knowledge of it,” accusing them of “wilfully burying their heads in the sand.” False consciousness, eh, lads?
Further evidence of the dynamic duo’s iron-hard scholarly rigour comes on page 32, where they claim that “since 9/11 arson, criminal damage, violence and intimidation against mosques, Islamic institutions and Muslim organisations has increased dramatically.” By page 104, however, they are stating: “How many out of approximately 1600 mosques, Islamic centres and Muslim organisations in the UK have been attacked since 9/11? Our research project aims to answer these questions…Much painstaking research lies ahead before we can provide an accurate picture” (my italics).
Deciding on the answer before you have done the research, or peddling false conclusions in defiance of the available evidence, are, of course, the most serious crimes in academia.
But the primary purpose of the Lambert- Githens-Mazer dodgy dossier is not academic; it is political. The authors’ real aim is not to defend Britain’s Muslims, but to defend their own paymasters, the Islamist leaders of the IFE and its allies. As they put it: “It is impossible to deal effectively with the multi-faceted problem of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred without grasping the nettle of neo-Conservative campaigning against effective, credible, politically-active Muslims like Dr Bari.”
The reason Islamists need to claim a rising tide of “anti-Muslim hatred,” however slender the evidence, is three-fold. First, it furthers their agenda of promoting distance between Muslims and non-Muslims. Second, it is aimed at frightening Muslims into their camp. Third, it enables them to stifle criticism; any attacks on Islamists can be dismissed as “Islamophobic” attacks against all Muslims.
Much of the report amounts to a cry of pain against the likes of me, Martin Bright, Qulliam and Policy Exchange who, the report flatteringly concedes, have helped weaken Islamism’s influence in the British state; and a call for Islamist and IFE-dominated bodies to be given back their “partnership relationships” with the authorities. (There’s also a whole chapter on my Dispatches documentary about the IFE; more on that tomorrow, but for now see Ted Jeory’s deeply-informed demolition of it here.)
Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s client relationship is clear and direct. Their Exeter University unit, the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) – and this latest report – is funded by the Cordoba Foundation, which has been described by David Cameron as a “front for the [Islamist] Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Spanish city of Cordoba was, of course, the capital of the last European Islamic caliphate. The Cordoba Foundation’s director of research, Abdullah Folik, is a trustee of the IFE, which believes, in its own words, in creating a new caliphate in Europe and in transforming the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”
The report and the EMRC are also funded by Islam Expo, one of whose directors is Mohammed Sawalha, described by the BBC’s Panorama as a former senior commander in Hamas and put in by Lambert as a trustee of his favourite North London Central Mosque (not coincidentally, there is also a frothing defence of the mosque in the report.)
The report is so transparently shrill and dishonest that I really don’t think the Islamists have got their money’s worth. Even the usual suspects online and in the press seem to have ignored it and the report is no longer available to download from the Cordoba website. Perhaps they’ve realised what an own goal it is.
The more important financial question is for Exeter University. I know universities need to get income from wherever they can these days, but the price of this particular funding in terms of political pain, media attention and academic credibility could turn out to be rather high.
One of the greatest peculiarities of Ken Livingstone’s campaign to be re-elected mayor is his determination to strap himself to some fairly non-vote-winning causes. He is backing the Tube strikers (indeed his campaign is based out of their offices), and fighting hard for various Islamic fundamentalists and their puppets. Today, to add to the collection, he also backs the students who have occupied various buildings of the University of London. Here’s a picture of him this morning addressing the occupation of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and here’s his statement a couple of days ago backing the occupation at University College London. Another great signal to the centre ground!
The intention, no doubt, is to build support among interest groups (union members, Muslims, students) who can be relied on to vote for Ken. It’s a classic Livingstone play but has proved a failure wherever it has been tried, by him and by others. The support generated may be deep, but it is also narrow; it can never substitute for broad support among non-activists; and it often alienates that broader support that you need to win.
For us students (of Kenology) the statement is interesting, since it focuses all its fire on the Tories – who were in fact relatively honest about the issue of tuition fees at the election – and none at all on the greatest targets of students’ wrath, the Lib Dems, who of course campaigned on a pledge to scrap fees, then did the exact opposite.
I dare say there is, as always with Ken, some kind of complicated tactical consideration here – perhaps he’s hoping for some Lib Dem second preferences – but it underlines the inadvisability of students looking to him as their champion. He’s interested in his future, not yours.