Breaking news: Fundamentalist-linked council official resigns

Lutfur Ali, one of the key figures in the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe/ East London Mosque’s influence over Tower Hamlets Council, has tonight resigned, the council confirmed. Mr Ali was the second most powerful officer on the council and his departure is a major blow to the fundamentalists. The IFE’s opponents are overjoyed. “This is the tipping point,” says Badrul Islam, one of the main local opponents of the group.

Mr Ali, a close associate of the IFE, was appointed assistant chief executive of the council on £125,000 a year despite a negative headhunter report and a misleading CV. He featured heavily in my Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on fundamentalist infiltration into London politics.

As we reported, Mr Ali has been accused of moonlighting for other employers – who only realised when they saw him in our documentary. Questions will be raised over whether the council was right to allow him to resign. Shouldn’t he have been sacked? And is he getting a payoff or any other benefits?

More to follow on this story later – a full statement from the council is expected within the hour. And I may also post on a completely ridiculous statement issued today by those celebrated champions of “moderation and tolerance,” the East London Mosque. Watch this space.

Islamists in power: key council sympathiser under pressure

It looks like one of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe’s key sympathisers on Tower Hamlets Council could be in trouble today.

Lutfur Ali was appointed assistant chief executive of the council – the second most important post – despite a damning headhunter’s report which described him as “superficial,” “rather limited,” and “one-dimensional.” They said he might “struggle with the intellectual challenges [of] a highly strategic role”.

Unknown to the headhunters, Mr Ali had also been forced to resign from a previous post at the London Fire Authority after breaking rules on political neutrality. He omitted this fact from his Tower Hamlets application.

Luckily, though, he did have what was almost certainly a more important qualification – close links to the IFE. He set up an organisation called the Centre for Muslim Affairs with a number of IFE and IFE-linked figures.

Now it is alleged that Mr Ali has been moonlighting – in council time – for an organisation called the National College for Leadership of Schools. The chief executive, Kevan Collins, confirmed to me that a complaint had been received from the college  – which acted after seeing Mr Ali in my Dispatches programme two weeks ago. A council spokesperson said: “We have received a letter from the National College, and it is being looked into.”

“Any allegations of that nature will be fully investigated,” Mr Collins said. “Every member of staff is under a contractual obligation to work full-time for the council unless explicitly stated otherwise.”

Approached on Saturday, Mr Ali did not deny the allegation, saying only: “I cannot make a comment on that because I need to check out exactly what the college have said.”

If the allegations are true, it is hard to see how Mr Ali can survive. If he goes, it is bad news for the IFE – and brilliant news for Tower Hamlets.  As well as being apparently unqualified for his job, he is in charge of grants – and under him, quite a lot of grants have been funnelled to IFE-linked organisations.

The council says they may have something to say about the results of their “looking into” in a day or so. I’ll be keeping an eye on the case. And if Tower Hamlets’ IFE-influenced political leadership somehow tries to brush the matter under the carpet, I think you can rely on a fuss being made.

Fundamentalist-infiltrated council steps back from the cliff edge – just

At the eleventh hour, Tower Hamlets has drawn back from an act of stupidity stunning even by its own standards. The council’s initial response to our revelations that it has been infiltrated by Islamic fundamentalists – revelations which the council leader refuses to deny – has been not to investigate the matter, but to attack one of the people who helped expose it.

In the ongoing takeover process of the council by the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), one of the key moments was the appointment of Lutfur Ali, a man with close links to the IFE, to the second most important job at the Town Hall – despite his palpable unfitness for the £125,000 post.

Apart from his IFE links, there wasn’t that much else going for Mr Ali. The council-appointed headhunters who considered applicants described him as “rather limited,” “superficial,” and “one-dimensional” and said he might “struggle with the intellectual challenges [of] a highly strategic role.” And the headhunters didn’t even know that Mr Ali had submitted a misleading CV, which gave false dates for a previous employment and omitted the fact that he had been forced to resign from that job for breaching the local authority code of conduct. 

Mr Ali is responsible for council grants. Since his appointment, a lot more council money has started going to organisations closely linked to  – you guessed – the IFE. These organisations include a very generously-funded youth training project, Brick Lane Youth Development Association, or Blyda. Part of the purpose of this project, according to critics, is to take vulnerable young people off the streets and imbue them with the values of the IFE.

Blyda’s chair and three of its four trustees are also trustees of the IFE, or its youth wing, the YMO. The man in charge of Blyda’s project working with local gang members, Muhammad Rabbani, is the same person who trains young IFE recruits in the need for an “Islamic social, economic and political order” in Britain.

Has the council sacked or suspended Lutfur Ali? Not at all, but they have been trying to suspend the man who exposed him – the opposition leader, Peter Golds, who brought out the contents of the headhunters’ report in our programme. Mr Golds was accused of “breaching confidentiality” by quoting from the document. Actually, he was quoting not from the report but from a letter he wrote about it to the council’s standards committee.

The idea that someone can be thrown off a council for reading out one of his own letters has proved, in the end, a notch too far even for Tower Hamlets. It would also have been the mother of all media disasters. So this afternoon the idea has been dropped.

But it is symptomatic of the utter panic and denial now reigning at the council that they could even have thought of such a thing.