Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, went round the local mosques yesterday, urging congregations to vote for his close ally Ken Livingstone. At the Brick Lane mosque, Lutfur apparently delivered a speech at the Friday prayer, saying that Ken was Muslims’ best hope – not a view shared by many of the Muslims I know.
A gentleman called Azad Ali has also been tweeting his support for Ken. Azad is the community affairs co-ordinator of the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, which controls the East London Mosque and which is dedicated, in its own words, to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.” In Ken’s last term as mayor, the East London Mosque was paid £500,000 by Livingstone’s London Development Agency to help build the IFE a new headquarters. Ken’s officials furiously protested against the grant, saying there was “no case” for an LDA contribution, but were overruled. Azad is also Ken’s vice-chair at the Unite Against Fascism organisation, and was invited to speak at Ken’s Progressive London conference last year.
Azad has written on his IFE blog of his “love” for Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda cleric. He used to attend talks by Al-Qaeda’s main representative in the UK, Abu Qatada. He has described al-Qaeda as a “myth” and said that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were not terrorism. On his IFE blog, he advocated the killing of British troops in Iraq (he sued a newspaper for reporting this, and lost.) Filmed by an undercover reporter for my Channel 4 Dispatches on the IFE, Azad said: “Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no-one agrees with that.” His response to this exposure was to threaten our undercover reporter.
In 2008 IFE and Azad repaid Ken’s favours by running a campaign called “Muslims for Ken” – which boasted that “we got out the vote” in its east London heartland. There were indeed astonishing, even unbelievable swings towards Ken in Tower Hamlets last time, no doubt aided by Muslims for Ken handing out leaflets at the mosques claiming Boris would ban the Koran.
There’s not so much overt activity of that kind in 2012 – Livingstone obviously hasn’t got the public purse to buy votes with any more. But stuff appears to be going on under the surface – and the postal-vote situation is still looking extremely promising for the Kenster.