Lutfur Rahman, Tower Hamlets and Securalism.
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.
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.
These are the relevant items.
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.