Ken Livingstone's extremist links: a 'remarkable intellect' hits back

Ken Livingstone campaigning for the extremist-linked Lutfur Rahman

Rabina Khan, Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet member for housing, penned a sharp attack today on the Evening Standard’s recent series of articles about the electoral roll shenanigans in Tower Hamlets, the Sharia-tinged administration of which she is part.

Ms Khan claimed that linking Lutfur with Islamic extremism was “simply risible.” Perhaps she’s forgotten that Lutfur lost a complaint on this precise subject against me and this newspaper at the Press Complaints Commission recently. The PCC ruled that it was “not misleading” to describe Rahman as “closely linked” to the extremist Islamic group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), who control the East London Mosque.

Dozens and dozens of times over the last two years, this blog, this newspaper, and Channel 4’s Dispatches have produced copious evidence linking Lutfur with Islamic extremism. The main highlights of his career to last October are set out here. The IFE, the mosque and their allies have also made more than 200 complaints about us to the PCC and to the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom. Every single one of those complaints has been rejected, too.

In her piece, Ms Khan angrily denied that Lutfur’s supporters were “homophobic.” In fact, the East London Mosque is perhaps the most powerful homophobic institution in London. As I and others have described, Lutfur’s most prominent supporter, Shiraj Haque, and other Rahman backers, have repeatedly homophobically heckled gay councillors from the public gallery in Tower Hamlets’ own council chamber. Rabina Khan’s cabinet colleague for education, Cllr Oli Rahman, has shared a platform at the East London Mosque, in his official capacity, with a group that campaigns against homosexuality. Her cabinet colleague for regeneration, Cllr Rania Khan, posted homophobic rhetoric on her social networking pages.

Rabina’s fear, of course, is that public disquiet about Lutfur will undermine his close ally, Ken Livingstone. At the election that brought Rahman to power, Ken broke with his own party to campaign for Lutfur, against Labour. Ken’s own links with the IFE are also close. In 2004/5 Ken’s London Development Agency (LDA) gave the East London Mosque hundreds of thousands of  pounds in to build a new headquarters for the IFE, even though the LDA’s own staff warned that there was “no case” for paying it the money. At the subsequent London mayoral poll – an election lost by Ken – senior members of the IFE managed to secure extraordinary swings, completely unreplicated anywhere else, towards Livingstone in Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Newham.

In recent years, Tower Hamlets has seen highly suspicious movements in its electoral roll – going up sharply in years with major elections, plunging back down when there are no elections, then shooting up again in the next election year. Many of the new names on the electoral roll (albeit in a community where people have common names) are the same as those of people we have identified as members of the IFE. This is what the Standard was getting at.

Since I last wrote about Lutfur’s administration, it has become even more of a public scandal. One of Lutfur’s councillors, Shelina Akhtar, has been sentenced to 16 weeks in jail for her second offence of benefit fraud. Quite incredibly, weeks after her imprisonment, she remains a councillor, collecting her full £200-a-week allowance.

Lutfur has been revealed to be paying £1,000 a day to a former senior LDA manager, one of a number of Ken “cronies” now employed at Tower Hamlets. Lutfur has even refused to answer questions from councillors at meetings, with one council officer explaining that to do so would “breach his human rights.”

Justifying this refusal, Rabina Khan herself explained that she and other members of Lutfur’s cabinet were perfectly well qualified to answer instead because of their “remarkable intellect.” In fact, as we have also described, Lutfur’s cabinet includes a tax avoider who bought himself a £48k Porsche; a former staff member at an IFE front organisation with a long record of encounters with the police; and a woman with pictures of knives on her social networking site (under the caption “I luv my weapons.”) This last charmer, Rania Khan, is the one who led the charge to shut down the sex displays, by the way.

Rabina’s “remarkable intellect” still needs a little bit of polishing, I think.

PS: Lutfur denies links to extremism.

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