This is a cross-post by Shiraz Maher from Standpoint Magazine.
The Sunday Telegraph is full of stories about the Islamic Forum of Europe’s (IFE) growing influence in East London. It says the group has effectively infiltrated the local Labour Party and brought extraordinary pressure to bear on the local council, Tower Hamlets, where a number of the IFE’s members and supporters have been installed in key positions.
Undercover filming captured, Abjol Miah, an IFE activist and Tower Hamlets councillor, telling reporters:
“We’ve consolidated ourselves now. We’ve got a lot of influence and power in the council, councillors, politicians.”
Abu Talha, an IFE member, was also filmed saying:
“Our brothers have gone into positions of influence, council positions.”
The IFE has, of course, flatly denied all the allegations.
That makes Inayat Bunglawala’s email (sent today at 1830) to members of the Islamic Society of Britain and Young Muslims group on Yahoo particularly interesting.
The current campaign against IFE has been brewing for some time. Just a few weeks ago, Martin Bright – the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle – called for a grand alliance of secularists and Zionists against the IFE:
You are quite right to say that elements in the local Labour party are concerned by the IFE. The IFE have become influential in East London and unfortunately that means [sic] that have been selected to have their wings clipped by hostile elements (and who include some Muslims – as is often the case).
It is actually quite funny. You get criticised as being an ‘extremist’ if you don’t adopt the method of democratic engagement. And if you do adopt democratic engagement but also happen to be Muslim (and not of the neo-con variety), then you still get smeared as an ‘extremist’.
There has been an ongoing campaign for a few years now to target those Muslim organisations and individuals who are politically active and do not adopt the pro-Israel narrative regarding justice in the Middle East. This campaign has also included the government providing huge – and unprecedented funding – to new organisations which have zero support among Muslims but are willing to act as attack dogs against politically active Muslims and smear them as ‘Islamists’.
The campaign has of course been an utter failure, alhamdulillah, and there are signs that senior elements in government have recognised how counter-productive it was to back some of those fly-by-night organisations.
This is not to whitewash the IFE. I am sure some of its members have said and done some silly things at various times – who hasn’t – but they are clearly streets ahead of many other Muslim organisations in terms of organisational ability, vision and discipline.
There you have it.
Inayat confirms ‘the IFE have become influential in East London’ and that ‘the local Labour party are concerned by the IFE’.
I’m inclined to take Inayat’s word for it given his close association with current and former leaders of the IFE including Azad Ali and Mohammed Abdul-Bari.
So, what exactly are the IFE accused of?
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Jim Fitzpatrick, the Environment Minister, said the IFE had become, in effect, a secret party within Labour and other political parties.
“They are acting almost as an entryist organisation, placing people within the political parties, recruiting members to those political parties, trying to get individuals selected and elected so they can exercise political influence and power, whether it’s at local government level or national level,” he said.
“They are completely at odds with Labour’s programme, with our support for secularism.”
Mr Fitzpatrick, the MP for Poplar and Canning Town, said the IFE had infiltrated and “corrupted” his party in east London in the same way that the far-Left Militant Tendency did in the 1980s. Leaked Labour lists show a 110 per cent rise in party membership in one constituency in two years.
More detailed analysis of the Labour Party’s members list reveals:
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. The exercise is not conclusive because many people in the Bangladeshi community have common names – but it is suggestive. The IFE denied it was in any way behind the rise in membership.
This forms the central allegation against the IFE – that its members are pursuing entryist tactics in East London. Notably, Inayat does not deny this but instead reiterates all the usual allegations of ‘McCarthyism’ and ‘Zionist conspiracy’.
Of course, Inayat is not a spokesman for the IFE and cannot act on its behalf. Yet, his proximity to its leadership and his longstanding involvement in the murky world of sectarian Islamist politics makes him an authoritative voice in this respect.
The Labour Party must investigate this urgently.