Ken Livingstone: I will make London a beacon of Islam

Here is the full version of a story which appears in the print edition of today’s Daily Telegraph:

Ken Livingstone has promised to turn London into a “beacon” for the words of the Prophet Mohammed in a sermon at one of the capital’s most controversial mosques.

Mr Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, pledged to “educate the mass of Londoners” in Islam, saying:  “That will help to cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the Prophet.” Mr Livingstone described Mohammed’s words in his last sermon as “an agenda for all humanity.”

He praised the Prophet’s last sermon, telling his audience: “I want to spend the next four years making sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands [its] words and message.” He also promised to “make your life a bit easier financially.”

Mr Livingstone was speaking at last Friday’s Jummah prayer at the North London Central Mosque, also known as Finsbury Park Mosque, formerly controlled by the terrorist recruiter Abu Hamza.

Hamza was removed in 2003 but the mosque is now controlled by an Islamist organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain, which has been linked to the banned terror group, Hamas. A man who has acted as spokesman for the current leadership, Azzam Tamimi, is on record as supporting suicide bombings. One of the mosque’s current directors, Mohammed Sawalha, is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his post in London.

In 2009 Mr Sawalha also signed the Istanbul Declaration which calls for attacks against the allies of Israel, which include the UK. The British Government interpreted it as calling for attacks on British troops.

In 2010, the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, a Muslim moderate, resigned from the mosque’s board of trustees and reported it to the Charity Commission, accusing the mosque of forging his signature on key legal documents.

Mr Livingstone has been dogged by allegations of links to Islamic fundamentalism. In 2010, in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, he campaigned against his own party’s candidate to back a controversial independent politician, Lutfur Rahman, sacked by Labour for his links to a Muslim extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE).

During his mayoralty, Mr Livingstone’s London Development Agency channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds to the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, controlled by the IFE, even though senior LDA managers strongly opposed the grant. In return, IFE activists campaigned strongly for him at the 2008 mayoral elections, boasting that they “got out the vote” for Mr Livingstone and achieving dramatic swings to him in their east London heartland.

Mr Livingstone also gave thousands of pounds of public money to the Muslim Welfare House, a charity closely associated with the Finsbury Park Mosque, which signed an open letter backing his re-election campaign in 2008.

In his last sermon, delivered in the valley of Mount Arafat, near Mecca in 632 AD, the Prophet Mohammed attacked discrimination, saying that “a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action.” However, he also said that men had a right to ensure their wives “do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve.”

 

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Islamist sympathisers admit they are losing ground in government

Over the last few months, I and others monitoring Islamism’s influence inside the British state have started to believe that the tide is turning. Last week one of British Islamism’s most important fellow-travellers, a man called Bob Lambert, appeared to confirm my view.

When Lambert was head of the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit, he exemplified a view shared by some others in the security establishment: that we can anoint “good Islamists” and use them as a bulwark against the “bad Islamists.”

The showpiece for this approach is the North London Central Mosque, also known as the Finsbury Park Mosque. The mosque, formerly home to Abu Hamza and a centre of terrorist recruitment, was closed after a police raid in 2003. On its reopening, in a deal brokered by Lambert, it was essentially gifted to an Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain. The new leadership were certainly more moderate than Abu Hamza – not terribly hard – but they have close links with another designated terrorist organisation, Hamas.

Last week, in an article for the al-Jazeera website, Lambert defended a decision by some of his other Islamist allies, such as the East London Mosque, to host meetings with the terrorist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. At first reading, I merely enjoyed Lambert’s piece as a rare full bingo card of all the techniques from the I-Spy Book of Advanced Islamist Rhetoric (lofty pseudo-academic tone? Check. Calling anyone who disagrees with you a “neo-con”? Check. Wilfully misrepresenting what they actually said? Check. Labelling as “speculative” any facts you don’t like? Check.)

But then I noticed, buried near the end, Lambert’s significant admission that “the weight of think-tank and media opinion appears to have discouraged the Government from adopting and promoting the Finsbury Park model.” Hurrah! The trustees of Finsbury Park include Mohammed Sawalha, described by the BBC’s Panorama as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his perch in London. The mosque’s spokesman, Azzam Tamimi, has justified suicide bombings against civilians (but only Israeli ones, so that’s all right, then.)

Lambert’s policy was a tamer version of the securocrats’ disastrous pre-9/11 misjudgment, the so-called “compact of security,” when they allowed Hamza and other al-Qaeda sympathisers openly to use London as a base in the touching belief that it would somehow count in our favour with Osama bin Laden. At Finsbury Park, Lambert legitimised fringe minority radicals as authentic, mainstream voices. Glad he knows he’s been rumbled.

Policy Exchange vs North London Mosque: case closed

THE think-tank Policy Exchange appears to have come off better in its fight with the Islamist-controlled North London Central Mosque, which sued for libel over the think-tank’s controversial pamphlet The Hijacking of British Islam. The pamphlet found extremist literature at the mosque, but some of its evidence was later questioned amid suggestions of forgery.

As I reported last year, Mr Justice Eady dismissed the mosque’s libel action. The mosque appealed. Today, Policy Exchange said the final appeal had been dismissed.

Policy Exchange emphasises that it has not apologised to the North London Central Mosque and that the mosque has been forced to pay them substantial costs, believed to be in the region of £100,000. It says:

“Policy Exchange is pleased to report that the libel action brought by the North London Central Mosque (NLCM) against it over its report The Hijacking of British Islam has now ended, following the dismissal of NLCM’s appeal against the order of Mr Justice Eady. NLCM has paid a substantial contribution towards Policy Exchange’s costs…Policy Exchange has not apologised to NLCM for the publication of its report.”

The think-tank has issued a statement as part of the settlement, saying (as it did in the contested report) that “it never sought to suggest that the extremist literature [found at the mosque] was sold or distributed with the knowledge or consent of the mosque’s trustees or staff.”

The secretary of the mosque, Mohammed Kozbar, however, says: “The case has not been dismissed at all. We had an out-of-court settlement. If it had been dismissed, they would not have put this statement on their website.” Policy Exchange says that, no, the action was definitely dismissed.

Policy Exchange stated: “NLCM sought the Court’s permission to appeal. This was twice refused.  It was granted by Lord Justice Sedley on 21 April 2010 on the third time of asking.  Lord Justice Sedley nevertheless emphasised that he did not believe there was a realistic prospect of NLCM overturning Mr Justice Eady’s ruling.

“In the meantime, in February 2010 the trustees of the mosque abandoned their individual claims in libel against Policy Exchange in respect of the same report and paid a substantial contribution to Policy Exchange’s legal costs.

“In October 2010 NLCM discontinued its appeal and paid a substantial contribution to Policy Exchange’s legal costs. Following that agreement the appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 5 October 2010.”

One of the most important tactics of Islamists is to hassle those who write about them with libel actions and complaints. Mostly, if you stand firm, they will either go away, or lose. It’s a tribute to the Policy Exchange trustees that they stood firm.

The North London Central Mosque is perhaps Britain’s most important showpiece for the belief by some in authority that we can anoint “good Islamists” and use them as a bulwark against the “bad Islamists.” The mosque, formerly home to Abu Hamza and a centre of terrorist recruitment, was closed after a police raid in 2003 and reopened under new leadership in 2005 in a deal brokered by the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, led at the time by an Islamist sympathiser, Robert Lambert.

It was essentially gifted to an Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain. The new leadership were certainly more moderate than Abu Hamza – not terribly difficult – but they have close links with another designated terrorist group, Hamas. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of setbacks for them.

(Declaration of interest: I have written two reports for Policy Exchange, though had no involvement in this one.)

Muslim group: some MPs are the wrong kind of Muslim

One of the stated aims of a group called the British Muslim Initiative is to “encourage Muslim participation in British public life.” Yet, at the coming election, the BMI is urging people to throw out one of just four Muslim MPs in Britain.

The recommendation to vote against Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, is being spun by the BMI’s spokesman, Anas al-Tikriti, as a heart-warming sign of the BMI’s non-sectarian nature. The actual reason is that Mr Mahmood is an outspoken moderate opponent of Islamism and of Hamas, the terrorist group which the BMI supports.

Last month, Mr Mahmood – who is a trustee of the North London Central Mosque – reported the mosque to the Charity Commission after he said other trustees forged his signature on key legal documents (a charge the mosque has not convincingly denied.) There has long been tension between Mr Mahmood, other moderate trustees and the more radical elements of the mosque.

One of the other trustees (not necessarily involved in the forgery) is Mohammed Sawalha, who is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas “said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his perch in London. Last year, Mr Sawalha also signed the Istanbul Declaration, which calls for attacks against the allies of Israel, which include the UK.

Mr Sawalha, by extraordinary coincidence, is the president of the BMI. Mr al-Tikriti regularly defends Hamas. Another BMI figure is Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas supporter who has advocated suicide bombing. The BMI itself has been closely involved in some of the most inflammatory and dishonest campaigning in British politics outside the ranks of the BNP. In the 2008 London mayoral election, for instance, it claimed, in concert with the Islamist group the Islamic Forum of Europe, that Boris Johnson wanted to ban the Koran.

For the Islamists, Muslims taking part in British life is not enough. They have to be the right kind of Muslims. And if they’re not, they’d rather not have a Muslim MP at all, thanks.

I rather suspect that BMI-type lists of recommendations have no effect whatever. But just in case they do, it’s worth alerting people to this group’s true agenda.

'Forgery' mosque: new developments

As we reported last month, a London mosque has been reported to the Charity Commission by one of its own trustees, a Muslim Labour MP, after he said it forged his signature on key legal documents.

In a letter obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, Khalid Mahmood said he had become “seriously concerned” about actions taken by his fellow trustees at the North London Central Mosque and called for a “full investigation” into what he called “a serious criminal offence.”

The mosque, which became notorious as the home of hate preacher Abu Hamza, was closed down by police in 2005 and reconstituted with a new board of trustees, including Mr Mahmood and another Muslim Labour MP, Mohammed Sarwar.

However, an alleged extremist and supporter of the banned terrorist group Hamas, Mohammed Sawalha, was also given a prominent place on the new board, causing tensions with moderate trustees such as Mr Mahmood and Mr Sarwar.

Mr Sawalha is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his perch in London. Last year, Mr Sawalha also signed the Istanbul Declaration, which calls for attacks against the allies of Israel, which include the UK.

Conflict has come to a head over a libel action launched by the mosque against the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange, which claimed that extremist literature was found on the premises. In his complaint to the mosque and the Charity Commission, Mr Mahmood says that the libel case was launched without his or Mr Sarwar’s knowledge or consent.

“Neither I nor Mr Sarwar have been consulted with regards to the legal action against Policy Exchange,” he said. “To spend what I apprehend to be very substantial sums of money on libel proceedings is not in accordance with the charity’s governing document.” The case was thrown out by the judge, Mr Justice Eady, who ordered the mosque to pay Policy Exchange’s costs, but the mosque is appealing.

Mr Mahmood also said that his signature on a key legal document was forged by another trustee of the mosque, not Mr Sawalha. In his letter, he says: “My signature is said to appear on that document. That signature is a forgery. I understand another trustee to claim on oath that he forged my signature but did so with my authority. I have never given any such authority. I understand his actions constitute an offence under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act… It appears that a serious criminal offence has occurred.”

At the time a spokesman for the other trustees, Mohammed Kozdar, told us: “The decision to take legal action against Policy Exchange was recorded in the board of trustees’ minutes which we send Mr Mahmood.” Asked about the allegation of forgery, he said: “As far as we know, he asked someone to sign on his behalf. I wasn’t aware he denies that. If he does, we need to find out who’s right.”

Now the mosque has replied in similar terms to Mr Mahmood’s complaint – prompting the MP to write back a further stiff letter. “I do not believe that I was sent minutes of the trustees’ meetings,” he says. And: “I have read and re-read your explanation for my forged signature on the Trust Deed… Your letter provides no explanation as to why my signature is forged, which is a serious criminal offence.”

The Charity Commission is now investigating. Watch this space for further news.