Lutfur Rahman cabinet member shares platform with bigot

Over the last week I’ve covered the East London Mosque’s decision to host yet another meeting with a homophobic preacher – an almost instant breach of its recent pledge to ban “any speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic” – and then its ludicrous PR contortions as it tried to justify its bad faith.

Well, it now transpires that as well as the anti-gay campaigner Yusuf Patel, of SREIslamic, and the director of the mosque, last Wednesday’s meeting also featured a contribution from Councillor Oliur Rahman, cabinet member for children’s services in Lutfur Rahman’s administration at Tower Hamlets council.

Lutfur recently claimed to take a “zero-tolerance approach to homophobia.” So why on earth is he letting his cabinet appear at meetings organised by a group which specifically campaigns for “the unacceptability of homosexuality?”

One explanation may perhaps be that Lutfur is, of course, the man who was dropped as a candidate by the Labour Party because of his links with the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, who just happen to control…the East London Mosque.

Wednesday’s event, by the way, was billed as an “emergency meeting” to protest about the use in Tower Hamlets schools of a children’s sex education video called Living and Growing. Living and Growing, I now learn, was made in 1999. It has been used in schools for the last twelve years, and in Tower Hamlets schools for at least the last three years.  Parents have, and always have had, the right to withdraw their children from sex education lessons if they object to any aspect of them. Some emergency!

What next, I wonder – an “emergency meeting” to oppose the Vietnam War? It’s all further grounds for suspicion that the likes of Patel and the East London Mosque are flamming up phony fears about sex education as a pretext to get their hooks into Muslim parents. And they appear to be getting support from Lutfur’s council. Instead of exposing the flimsiness of SREIslamic’s “emergency,” Councillor Rahman is reported as telling the meeting that he supports the concerns.

Almost two years ago, incidentally, one progressive blogger alerted us to the way in which SREIslamic were extremists “putting on a moderate face” and “jumping on a polarising and emotive issue to build their own base and support.” That blogger was none other than Sunny Hundal – the very gentleman who last weekend was denouncing me for making exactly the same point, and cranking out desperate excuses for the East London Mosque. I can only conclude that in this case Mr Hundal’s evident dislike of me, or the “right-wing media,” or something, has entirely undermined his judgment and intellectual integrity.

PS: Excursions like Oli Rahman’s seem unlikely to bring Lutfur’s longed-for readmission to Labour any closer. And indeed this afternoon, Lutfur announced that a further four councillors – Shahed Ali, Abdul Asad, Rofique Uddin Ahmed and Shafiqul Haque – had defected from the Labour group on Tower Hamlets council to the ranks of his nascent anti-Labour group. Interestingly, the defections are actually being welcomed by Labour as a further step in the cleansing of the Tower Hamlets party.

“We are delighted,” said one senior Tower Hamlets Labour source tonight. “We have been trying to get a couple of these people deselected for years, simply on the grounds that they are a complete waste of space. Lutfur’s downfall will be that he simply has no capable people willing to work with him.” A Labour spokesman said that all four of the councillors would be expelled from the party within days.

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