Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Lutfur Rahman, Tower Hamlets and Securalism.

with 34 comments

Directly Funds Religious Groups. 

This is not the place to discuss the full picture  of the Panorama report into Tower Hamlets Council and Lufter Rahman.

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for local government, is not the best person to criticise anybody, even the person who ties his shoelaces.

Counterfire has however  muddied the waters by repeating Rahman’s charges that the programme is ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobic’.

Since they claim to speak for the left, they need a reply.

They claim,

Take away the constant reminders that Lutfur and many of supporters are Bengali(!!), and what were we left with? Firstly, the fact that he didn’t follow the advice of council bureaucrats as to who should get funding, and secondly that he didn’t submit himself to sufficient questioning by Tower Hamlets’ Labour-dominated council. As for the former, it is a hardly a political scandal that funding decisions should, ultimately, be taken by elected representatives rather than unaccountable bureaucrats. If a mayor is to be branded corrupt for not doing what his officials tell him, why bother having elections at all?

This avoids the issue of the nature of directly elected mayors with the kind of powers to override and ignore objections from critics that was illustrated in the documentary.

It is a curious position to take, considering the battles the left has had with other directly elected mayors, in Bristol, to cite but one example.

It would have more to the point to argue that Eric Pickles, the Minister responsible  for this system in the first place is biased by focusing on only one borough and one Mayor.

Counterfire then goes on to make sweeping claims.

The British establishment seem rather conflicted on what they want Muslims to do. On the one hand they aggressively lecture British Muslims on their responsibility to engage with democracy and domestic political institutions. On the other hand, they seem awfully frightened by the prospect that voting by Muslims could actually influence the outcome of elections, and that brown people might get to spend public money.

We shall ignore Counterfire’s own ‘lectures’ to British Muslims on Imperialism, and its strange silence on the backing some British Muslims  give  to the Syrian jihadists.

The main problem is that the article’s rhetoric ignores a central issue : Tower Hamlets policy of funding, directly, faith organisations.

As can be seen from the Tower Hamlets Council Statement after the Panorama programme.

These are the relevant items.

Faith buildings

Panorama suggested the Faith Building Scheme in Tower Hamlets was somehow divisive, whereas faith and social cohesion go hand in hand in Tower Hamlets. The borough has a strong tradition in this regard: for example, the Salvation Army was formed in Tower Hamlets and many faith-based organisations deliver community services accessible to all. Preserving these buildings to support the area’s heritage and its rich faith communities is seen as vital to the fabric of Tower Hamlets

Grants to mosques

Many of these organisations, Churches, Mosques and Synagogues deliver valuable community services. Some will also have buildings of historical and community interest. It is about heritage, but this includes supporting the fabric of what makes our community strong. The inspiration for the scheme came from the fate of Nelson Street Synagogue, to help them maintain their building – in their case it was about heritage, but for others they were doing good community work and needed a means of improving their buildings.



The Docklands and East London Advertiser  21st February 2014.

A pitched battle broke out last night between Bangladeshi groups in a Whitechapel park, with women and children caught in the middle.

Hundreds had gathered in the park at midnight to place flowers at the Shaheed Minar (Martyr Monument) for the annual Bangladeshi Martyrs Day ceremony.

But flowers gave way to fists as the night turned violent after a war of words between rival groups over controversial war crimes trials in Bangladesh.

Tensions have been bubbling in the East End over the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh, which is trying men accused of war crimes during the country’s 1971 liberation war.

Death threats have been received by activists in London and some have been attacked in the street.

These clashes were the direct result of a battle being fought between Bangladeshi secularists and Islamists.

What is the fundamental objection to financing religious groups?

It is not a matter of  ‘heritage’ that is being sponsored by the Tower Hamlets Council (a criterion, incidentally, that means the secular French government helps out with the preservation of religious buildings).

It could be that this takes sides in controversies, such as oppose two wings of Bangladeshi society.

But more importantly it is to give active finance for religious groups some of which have a political agenda and many of which have far from inclusive positions of women’s rights, LGBT issues, and a host of other topics. 

Does this happen elsewhere?


This is a problem: multiculturalism being used to shore up faith communities and traditional leaderships.

One could say that this is the opposite of the anti-racist secularism a diverse borough like Tower Hamlets needs.

Instead all we get is bluster from the Rahman camp: Mayor’s response to BBC Panorama.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2014 at 11:42 am

34 Responses

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  1. How do you know Pickles doesn’t tie his own shoelaces?


    April 2, 2014 at 7:24 pm

  2. I agree with Counterfire’s comments and the programme really was a nothing.

    I also think Coates’ comment about the “Tower Hamlets policy of funding, directly, faith organisations.” is ambiguous.

    They are not giving money to the funds of a church, gurdwara (whatever) just like that. However, from their statement, like my own borough, they fund them to do stuff e.g. run a play scheme. Such is wrong but it is common with all councils e.g. a friend elsewhere in London can only recycle in the large bins nearby if she is happy to support a local church – they run the bank for the council and get the profits.

    It’s a unfortunate mishmash that that need sorting with an obligation on all providers of state services to be secular (even though the Salvation Army may be scrupulous in welcoming all in handing out whatever, I don’t think the state should fund such as the perception, albeit wrong, of some may be that non-Christians will be less welcome).

    But what LBTH do appear to be doing uniquely is funding religious buildings. If a synagogue, etc. approached a council for money for a building, then I would follow the precedent seen in much of inner London – old churches often no longer run their attached churchyard; these are now public parks run, paid-for and controlled by councils. So, in much the same way. a council should consider paying for repairs to a historic church etc only for a slice of ownership – I’m sure that body wouldn’t be paying back a slice of the profits to the council if it sells it at some point in the future otherwise – but nothing should be paid to expand or create a religious building. For complete separation of church (= all religious bodies) and state.

  3. Rahman has just sold the old Poplar Town Hall to a close associate for £875 000 and then gave planning permission in secret for a hotel. The borough is a mass of corruption and religious extremism. Counterfire and Southpaw haven’t got a clue about what is going on.

    I have never known communities so divided in the forty years I have been involved in the area. The best source of information is the Trial by Jeory blog which is very accurate. Counterfire are a bunch of Trotskyist has beens with no connection whatsoever with Tower Hamlets.


    April 3, 2014 at 3:13 am

    • Absolutely, Mad Mullah, I was aware of that, even if Beddy Boy is not.

      Shoe-laces and Pickles: with his girth he has probably not seen his shoes for years.

      Andrew Coates

      April 3, 2014 at 10:44 am

  4. Reblogged this on Trial by Jeory and commented:
    This is a reblog of a piece on Tendence Coatsey


    April 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

  5. Surely religion should not be funded by tax money. It amounts to extortion. If I don’t pay my taxes I can be penalized yet, not being religious, I don’t see religion as of any benefit to my community. If religious bodies, such as the Salvation Army carry out charitable work then all good and well but they shouldn’t be funded by public taxes.


    April 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm

  6. Also if ‘charity’ is being funded by taxes then it’s not charity.


    April 3, 2014 at 1:42 pm

  7. Churches and historic buildings, not in public ownership, should not be maintained out of public money either.


    April 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm

  8. In what sense are Counterfire ‘Trotskyists’?

    They are a splinter group of the SWP which had ceased describing itself as Trotskyist when they decided that they were the Leninist Vanguard Party in 1976 and even before then had long before broken with Trotskyism on the one belief that more than anything else defined it – the class nature of the Soviet Union and of the deformed workers states.

  9. people you are nott saying what really matters, which is thanks to Panorama and the labour massive the election has just been handed over to Luthfar Rahman, there is absolutely no doubt about him winning, just a question of by how much!!


    April 3, 2014 at 2:51 pm

  10. Roger, Counterfire, as leftists are aware, is not Trotskyist in any formal sense.

    More to the point Counterfire leader John Rees, of the Stepney Historical Society, seems to have good relations with Luftar.


    Behind their stand on Tower Hamlets Counterfire have a completely confused positon on Islamism.

    On the one hand they defend Islamists ‘against the state’, that is they see them as potentially radical forces, or at least ‘anti-imperialist’.

    Rosie links to Andrew Gilligan who demonstrates, in great detail, the reactionary communalism of Rahman which is one reality this Counterfire policy fails to get to grips with.

    On the other hand they denounce jihadists in Syria “the West realizes that it cannot overthrow Assad, and that its efforts had helped wreck Syria and empowered a collection of ‘emirs’, warlords and violent jihadists, has it began to think that Russia might actually have been right in calling for a political solution to the conflict – even though it is now increasingly difficult to see what that conflict might be”.

    Counterfire fails to ask how these groups came into being, or to look at the record of violent Islamism which began in 1980s Algeria (killing socialists, feminists, democrats) before the Army intervention in 1992.


    Andrew Coates

    April 3, 2014 at 3:33 pm

  11. I see Ted Jeory has blogged this post. Jeory, I will repeat, the programme was a nothing and made no points about anything corrupt happening in Tower Hamlets.

    Mullah – wherever you live, you appear to know little about anything. Do you care to provide the sources for your allegations?

    I suspect I know a lot more about how councils work (and District Auditors) than you. If a council (not the Mayor!) sells one of its properties, then it is obliged to obtain the best price for this. Do you have any evidence of otherwise?

    The Labour Group made the points you repeat in January and they said they would refer him to the District Auditor. There has been no further news about this so I take it that it was, As Rahman says, an electoral stunt. Councillors in many places refer to the District Auditor stuff all the time to try and generate coverage and usually with no substance at all. A DA would have confirmed they are investigating, by now. Also see the convincing rebuttal by the Mayor of this allegation – http://mayorlutfurrahman.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/poplar-town-hall-allegations-an-election-stunt/.

    But you go far further, Mullah, and make statements (rather than raise questions). I hope he sues you for the libel above.

    As a Trotskyist, I have little time for the Mayor. I also want a separation of (religious bodies) and the state – but that is a problem everywhere in the UK.

    Any rational person can see the attempted smears of the programme and wonder why such a programme was run now. If the BBC want to investigate all 32 London boroughs (maybe run a piece on each in the run up to next month’s elections) that would be good – I disagree with Rahman’s claim that they should not cover councils before elections; I think quite the reverse.

    However, why did they JUST do TH – shoddy journalism. Other Mayors e.g. Robin Wales in Newham and the massive loans by that council to West Ham FC are more deserving of coverage.

  12. George Lansbury must be spinning in his grave.

    Sue R

    April 3, 2014 at 4:47 pm

  13. Sue R. Yes he must. And, and the plaque to where he used to live on the Mile End Road will, if steps are not taken, will be stolen by travellers, those who live on permanent sites whilst allegedly moving on. You would have thought that between them Biggs and Angela would have been able to sort the thing out but not the case it seems.


    April 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm

  14. Yes Sue R. There is a plaque to him that will be stolen soon, because it is bronze, on the Mile End Road which Biggs knows about and has done nothing to preserve. Let’s do it people!


    April 3, 2014 at 5:17 pm

  15. R F McCarthy. You are either thick or a liar, about Trotskyism that is, and maybe other things that we don’t know about. The SWP say they are Trots, they sell the mass murderers works, they say he was a good, if somewhat misunderstood, chap. Which bits do you not understand?


    April 3, 2014 at 5:24 pm

  16. Interesting news from Ted Jeory’s site, just published. (I also hope my comment from yesterday can now be published – particularly as I may now be shown to be wrong about a matter I mentioned regarding Poplar TH – but let’s wait and see.)

    Panorama latest: Pickles sends in auditors to Tower Hamlets town hall…
    by trialbyjeoryic

    This has only just come to come, but at 8am this morning a number of specially appointed auditors from PriceWaterhouseCooopers arrived at Tower Hamlets town hall in Mulberry Place on the express orders of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

    Eric Pickles has heard enough and he has now put his words into action.

    Officials at DCLG have been watching Tower Hamlets extremely carefully for many months, amassing their own evidence.

    The BBC Panorama documentary on Monday was the final straw. Evidence amassed from that programme, and not just that relating to the broadcast itself, is also being examined.

    I understand PwC’s people are taking away boxes of files relating to the grants process and the disposal of assets, probably including the sale of Poplar Town Hall.

    Mayor Lutfur Rahman is due to hold an anti-Panorama rally in Stepney on Saturday. I suspect the tension will be ratcheted up.

  17. Now Jeory tweets ‘DCLG also say it is handing a file to the police today’.

    Hmm – so they raided the place at 0800 and are saying this just an hour later!

    Now it could be that DCLG had decided they had enough to do this before the raid, but surely that event will either enhance, or dismiss, the need for such a letter; if more stuff then it may take a while (days) to write the letter. That is why it smells fishy.

    One of the most bemusing things about the Panorama programme was them giving the opportunity for Eric Pickles to sit solemnly in judgement, like some independent figure.

    He’s not – he’s the Tory minister so, unsurprisingly, he will leap on anything – well based or not – to knock his political opponents.

    A bit like this blog.

  18. So it’s all a conspiracy then and he didn’t really sell a building worth millions for a fraction of its cost to a business associate along with secret planning permission?


    April 4, 2014 at 10:02 am

  19. And your proof of that, Mullah? No I didn’t think so.

    Such an allegation was made and Rahman rebutted it – google it. I cover it in my comment from yesterday (unpublished).

    And are you so idiotic that you think a Mayor actually sells a building himself, or that planning permission can be ‘secret’ – Neighbour: Hey, you have just built a house, where’s the permission. Houseowner:.Er, it’s a new secret permission!

    What a load of bollocks – there’s no such thing.

    If you mean, permission was given in secret, that’s bollocks, It can’t happen. Permission can be given under delegated powers by an officer (and the papers are public) but a cllr (any party) can ask for that to be then further discussed under scrutiny arrangements (before a final decision) and it is restricted (usually by size) what an officer can decide anyway. All papers and minutes are published. Are you claiming LBTH just ignores local government law?

  20. This discussion, larded with invective, has strayed from the original contentious item.

    Southpaw now admits that he wants “a separation of (religious bodies) and the state – but that is a problem everywhere in the UK. ”

    Well, it’s not quite the same problem as in Tower Hamlets, where the Mayor is directly funding religious groups – on his personal say-so.

    So, two problems: the principle of giving money to faith groups by a municipality, and, the way one individual is in a position to decide on which body to fund and which to not.

    Andrew Coates

    April 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

  21. I have never argued for anything other than ‘separation of church (etc) and state’, like any Trot, or indeed, many bourgeois republicans (e.g. in American revolution).

    Just where is the evidence Rahman funds religious groups???

    LBTH does, unusually, have a small fund (did the programme say £20K?) that they have used to pay for repairs to historic religious buildings. I don’t know another council who have done that (although they may) but that’s not funding a religious.body.

    It’s hard to take seriously such accusations from you (and Mullah) when you just make these bald statements. if you wish to repeat them, please put in a link to a Council minute (or other credible doc) supporting your claim.

    And I agree, a Mayor is less democratic than a council. But if that’s the system…

  22. Rahman’s alleged wrongdoing, according to BBC

    1. Not following officers’ recommendations! Any socialist would do such!

    2. Grant-aiding orgns 4 votes. How could that work, orgns don’t vote! This is based on racist view of Bengalis that you grant-aid say, a Stepney Asian Young Mums group and they all vote for you.

    It doesn’t work like that. Tory pensioners in Dulwich don’t vote Labour because their Labour council funds their day centre (and how could it be otherwise ensured, with secret ballot). It is fundamentally based on racism to think that Bengalis are some sort of sheep who vote as someone tells them to

  23. The link is given above, grants,.

    Anyway I note that your right-wing mate is now due to be up before the beak:

    “Government orders investigation into Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman
    Auditors sent to council and file passed to police after Panorama alleged mayor sought to shore up vote by diverting grants….”


    Andrew Coates

    April 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm

  24. On Rahmen’s religious agenda in the Economist was explicit and complimentary in November last year, (hat-tip LM),

    “Fans duly placated, Mr Rahman sets out his political philosophy. Religious groups are the backbone of Tower Hamlets, he explains. The riots of 2011 never came there because faith groups patrolled the streets and elders kept the young in line. Nurturing a community, he says, means building up religious outfits and charities that serve particular groups: mosques, synagogues, lunch clubs and the like. Mr Rahman also waxes eloquent about the social benefits of large extended families; he is building five-bedroom public homes to accommodate them.”


    Andrew Coates

    April 4, 2014 at 4:39 pm

  25. Dave Hill thinks Rahman is a good guy.


    April 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm

  26. Interesting interview with “the Somali born feminist and secularist” (as Coatesy calls her) and “heroine” (as Jim Denham calls her), Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in the latest “Reason” magazine:

    “Reason: Should we acknowledge that organized religion has sometimes sparked precisely the kinds of emancipation movements that could lift Islam into modern times?…Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?
    Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because right now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.
    Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?
    Hirsi Ali:No. Islam, period…
    Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?
    Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that…You look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.
    Reason: Militarily?
    Hirsi Ali:In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.”


    puss wallgreen

    April 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm

  27. Not quite sure what the point of posting this interview was. Could Puss Wallgreen let us know?


    April 7, 2014 at 9:33 am

  28. As Mad Mullah says, apart from anything else this was published in 2007.

    Since then she has also said that she prefers Christianity to Islam.

    I bet she’s come out with all kinda things in the last seven years.

    Andrew Coates

    April 7, 2014 at 11:13 am

  29. “Not quite sure what the point of posting this interview was”
    In your case, I hoped it would take your mind off Tower fucking Hamlets for 3 seconds, but I doubt if it worked.

    puss wallgreen

    April 7, 2014 at 12:33 pm

  30. “apart from anything else this was published in 2007”
    Yes, my mistake, it was flagged up on Richard Silverstein’s blog in relation to her most recent Islamophobic antics so it seemed as if it was contemporary. So you and Denham were presumable aware that she favored a military crushing of “Islam, period” when you hailed her as a “feminist and secularist” and a ‘heroine”.

    puss wallgreen

    April 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm

  31. Couold Puss Wallgreen inform us who she/he thinks has the right credentials to be a critic of Islam without being described as ‘Islamophobic’? There may be a lot wrong with Hersi Ali, principally she is not a socialist, but she was brought up a Muslim and (presumably) has lost her labia and clitoris to that cause. Is she not entitled to criticise Islam? Or, is Islam above reproach?

    Sue R

    April 7, 2014 at 10:06 pm

  32. I think it would be reasonable to describe somebody who advocates a war against “Islam, period” in “all forms” as an Islamophobe rather than simply a critic of Islam, n’est-ce pas? And rejecting this kind of madness is not equivalent to believing Islam to be above reproach. I don’t give a toss about whether Hirsi Ali is a socialist, my problem is with her being a neocon nutjob and an ally of the far right. Her personal history doesn’t change that and FGM does not form part of the teachings of Islam, fyi. Since you seem to spend your entire life fussing about scary Muslims would it hurt you to inform yourself about such basic matters?

    puss wallgreen

    April 7, 2014 at 10:49 pm

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