Watch Channel 4 – Dispatches (the same outfit that brought Undercover Mosque) tomorrow at 8pm. This is also from The Sunday Telegraph.
The borough boasts improved schools, spruced-up parks and increased house building. But look closer and some more unusual things are happening.The council chamber has hosted at least one debate with an anti-homosexual Islamic preacher. Until last month, Tower Hamlets public libraries stocked hundreds of items of extremist Islamic literature, bought at taxpayers’ expense and available to borrow.
According to senior IFE activists speaking to undercover reporters for Channel 4’s Dispatches, Tower Hamlets council – with its 15,000 staff and £1.1 billion budget – is their most impressive political achievement yet.In secret filming, Abjol Miah, an IFE activist and Tower Hamlets councillor, said: “We’ve consolidated ourselves now. We’ve got a lot of influence and power in the council, councillors, politicians.” Abu Talha, an IFE member, said: “Our brothers have gone into positions of influence, council positions.”
At the last annual general meeting of the council’s Labour group, Helal Abbas, a former leader, accused the IFE of controlling the council. Many Labour councillors said Labour’s Lutfur Rahman, the council leader, was helped during his campaign by a senior IFE official, who canvassed councillors – both Asian and white – on his behalf.Many of the councillors concerned were approached for comment and none would deny it. Typical answers included: “It would be difficult for me to lie, so that’s why I’m not saying anything.”
After Mr Rahman became leader, Tower Hamlets appointed a new assistant chief executive, Lutfur Ali, who – the investigation established – has links to the IFE. In 2006 Mr Ali set up a group called the Centre for Muslim Affairs. The other directors were trustees of the IFE or directors of other organisations closely connected to it.Mr Ali got the £125,000 job even though council-appointed headhunters described him as “rather limited”, “one-dimensional” and “superficial”. They said he might “struggle with the intellectual challenges [of] a highly strategic role”.
One of Mr Ali’s key responsibilities is for council grants. Under his tenure, much greater sums have been paid to, or for, two particular community organisations, Blyda and Elite Youth, which recently merged to form the Osmanli Trust. Another project, Nafas, which works with drug users, has also been generously funded.
Abu Mumin, the senior manager at the Osmani Trust,was one of the IFE figures thanked by George Galloway at his election victory dinner at the East London Mosque in 2005.
The council has decided to hand over its entire youth service in the west of the borough, previously provided in-house, to a consortium in which Blyda and Elite Youth play a key role. It is also spending at least £3.3 million (from the same Spitalfield’s Development sweetener that has provided the minaret and is intended to supply the hijab arches) to build the Osmani Trust a youth centre, even though another secular youth centre recently opened nearby.
Sunday Telegraph comment here.
Telegraph View: Developments in Tower Hamlets are worrying news for British democracy. Radical Muslims, in their unguarded moments, are unrepentant about what they believe to be their religious duty: the replacement of secular, tolerant and liberal democracy in Britain by a rigid theocracy, in which the country is governed by Islamic law. But it would be wrong to dismiss the extremists as insignificant. The evidence we publish today suggests that at least one such group has infiltrated parts of the Labour Party, and has taken over important aspects of the running of the London borough of Tower Hamlets.
If the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) was open and frank about its aims, voters would be able to make up their own minds about whether they wanted to see its members in any form of government in Britain. It is part of any democratic system worthy of the name that those who abide by the rule of law are entitled to campaign in elections, even if we find their beliefs objectionable. But some members of the IFE demonstrate in private that they have an agenda that they are not willing to share with the electorate. They have also demonstrated that they are unwilling to abide by the procedures which are essential if elections are to be free and fair.
But since Mr Brown came to power, both the Government's policies and its ministers have changed with bewildering speed. The one constant has been the provision of millions of pounds to organisations such as the IFE, in the hope that this will help prevent violent extremism. There has never been any good evidence that this tactic is effective.
It is not too late to prevent the radicals from advancing further. They are not popular within the Muslim community in Britain, and there is plenty of evidence that in any free and fair election, no representative from a radical Muslim organisation would win. But the Government has been strangely reluctant to face up to the seriousness of the problem. Until it does, the mechanisms of politics and government will remain open to perversion by those with their own insidious agendas.
At the last election, when George Galloway won the Bethnal Green and Bow seat for his new Respect party, it was partly – as he said – a verdict on Muslims’ anger with the war in Iraq. Unknown to most voters, however, it was also an important victory for the IFE.The Sunday Telegraph has obtained a secretly recorded tape of Mr Galloway addressing a celebration dinner at the East London Mosque, the IFE headquarters, on June 5 2005, shortly after his victory. “I am indebted more than I can say, more than it would be wise — for them — for me to say, to the Islamic Forum of Europe. I believe they played the decisive role … in this historic victory,” he said.
Jim Fitzpatrick, the Labour MP for Poplar and Canning Town, said the IFE had already started to turn its attention to the bigger prize of Labour.Odd things started happening, he said. “People were being signed up to be members, and told to turn up to the meetings where candidates were being selected with a list of those who they should be voting for,” he said. “We had never seen them before, and have never seen them afterwards. And that was corrupting our politics.”
Leaked Labour Party membership lists obtained by this newspaper provide clear evidence that someone is certainly infiltrating Labour.From 2006 to 2008, membership in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency more than doubled from 551 to 1,159, at a time when the party’s membership nationally was in steep decline. In 2006, the party, like the constituency, was roughly 50-50 Asian and non-Asian.But 90 per cent of the new members were Asian. Some 175 joined in a two-week period between Sept 14-28, 2007, and 31 on a single day — Sept 20, 2007.
Some of the new members told The Sunday Telegraph they were signed up en bloc by Lutfur Rahman, the man accused of rising to the council leadership with the IFE’s help.In another case the supposed “members” could not be found and had never appeared on the electoral roll at the address they gave, but a person with the same name as an East London Mosque employee was on the roll at that address. Many other new members have the same names as staff or trustees of IFE-linked organisations.
A senior person in the London Labour Party described how the IFE called Muslim activists and councillors it deemed promising into its headquarters. “They have you up to the secure floor of the mosque,” he said. “One guy I know was shown a room with maps with pins of contacts in it, across London and Britain.The pitch to him was: we control party members and votes in all these places. Join us, and you will never be short of manpower to back you up.” That is why Labour brought them in of course - but were too stupid to realise that they would be used themselves.
Labour appears to recognise that it has a problem. The Tower Hamlets party has been placed in special measures, stripped of the power to select its own candidates. Ken Clark, the regional director, spends an unusually large amount of time in the borough.A party spokesman was quoted in the East London Advertiser newspaper as saying: “We’re trying to prevent organisations filtering in who may try taking over the party. We’re sensitive following events with Militant [Tendency] a few years ago.”