There's a double page spread in the Daily Mail today headlined “Tower Hamlets Taliban”.
Tom Rawstorne’s article is a specious addition to the smear-campaign against the Islamic Forum Europe in Tower Hamlets and allegations that the organisation wields unruly power in one of London’s poorest boroughs.
The article is a mish-mash of claims, few of them substantiated with proper references, and no attempt made to engage in proper journalism by, for example, sourcing views from the people and organizations that Rawstorne is writing about.
For example, Rawstorne writes of “a Muslim faith school where girls as young as 11 have to wear face-covering veils,” but doesn’t give its name or include comment from a member of the school board.
He refers to “plans to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of municipal money to build a set of Islamic arches — the so-called ‘hijab gates’, which would look like a veil,” choosing to ignore the Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman’s clarification that the “illuminated steel arches [do] not resemble a hijab – and it has never been the council's intention that they should. The proposed pattern in the steelwork is the "flower of life", a symbol embraced by many different faiths and communities across the world.”
He goes on to repeat allegations of election corruption and claims that surfaced in Andrew Gilligan’s documentary, "Britain’s Islamic Republic”, that the local Labour party was being “infiltrated” by Islamic Forum Europe members.
Rawstorne writes of IFE as being a “fundamentalist group [which] believes in jihad and Islamic sharia law, and wants to turn Britain and other European countries into Islamic republics,” and wanting to “impose hardline views on local communities”. No inclusion, however, of an IFE perspective to counter the claims.
Raswtorne also refers to the election campaign for the Tower Hamlets mayorship and describes it, as the Evening Standard did, as “one of the nastiest campaigns in recent London political history”. No mention, however, of the reason why the campaign was mired in controversy and mud-slinging. No notable mention either of the infamous role of Andrew Gilligan in spearheading the anti-Lutfur faction.
Rawstorne argues that “concerns have grown recently that Islamist groups have begun to dominate the political process. The fear is that instead of governing in the interests of the whole community, power is being used to promote sectarian interests.”
But he makes no attempt to refute the perspective drawing on Lutfur Rahman’s interviews with Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman or Dave Hill of The Guardian.
And then there’s the case of the “gay free zone” stickers that were recently posted around east London and for which an individual has been charged, but Rawstorne conveniently overlooks the statement issued by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the East London mosque concerning the episode in which they state:
"Tower Hamlets has a proud history of challenging prejudice and promoting equality. There is no place for hate in Tower Hamlets and we take a zero-tolerance approach to homophobia.
"People of faith in Tower Hamlets are proud to be part of this diverse and vibrant borough, in which mutual respect and tolerance are vital to social harmony. We oppose all who seek to undermine these values – homophobic hate has no place in Tower Hamlets.
"Whatever their backgrounds of the people they do not speak in the name of Islam, Christianity or the other religions represented here."
Where Rawstorne does take the trouble to quote someone, it is James Brandon of the Quilliam Foundation who tells him “To an extent, the IFE and the BNP are mirror images. Both claim to represent one community to the detriment of all other groups.”
Rawstorne’s article is the worst kind of armchair journalism, expending no effort to unravel the truth behind the claims.
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