Lutfur Rahman, the Left and ‘spiritual influence’.
Israel style racist justice in UK. Muslim voters overruled in #Towerhamlets. Zionist MP alleged child rapist escapes trial.
— Ian Donovan (@donovanian999) April 23, 2015
Luftur Gets Support.
There have been a variety of reactions to the high court ruling by Richard Mawrey QC, on Thursday that Lufter Rahman, the mayor of Tower Hamlets borough since 2010, was guilty of vote-rigging, seeking spiritual influence through local imams, and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist.
This carries some weight.
The Tower Hamlets electoral fraud trial was a political event from the beginning. Indeed, everything you need to know about the decision of High Court Judge Richard Mawrey to declare void the election of Britain’s first Muslim Mayor is contained in his summary judgement. In it he said that Muslims in Tower Hamlets are ‘not a real minority’ because, apparently, there are so many of them in the borough.
Like the rest of his remarks it will fuel every racist stereotype that has ever been uttered about Tower Hamlets, and it will legitimise the long and disgraceful war by Tories, Lib-Dems and the local Labour Party to stop the rise of Bangladeshi representation in the area.
The judge’s view is so baseless that perhaps we should not be surprised that he is refusing to issue the executive summary of his judgement that he read out in court.
And what of the main charge that Lutfur Raham used ‘spiritual influence’ to gain votes? The judge obviously imagines that Muslims are so backward and superstitious that they cannot make their up their minds how to vote without religious guidance, or to ignore such advice if they wish. How confusing it must have been for those Muslim electors in wards where the front-runners were both Muslims!
And in any case in every Tower Hamlets election Muslims vote for Labour in large numbers as well as for left of Labour candidates. The Mayoral election in which Lutfur Rahman became Mayor (for the second time) was no different.
And if the use of ‘spiritual influence’ in elections is enough to declare them void then there’s going to be a few other results declared null…in Northern Ireland where the influence of Protestant and Catholic churches will remain enormous at the coming general election for instance. Perhaps the most amazing aspect is this spiritual law under which the judge issued his verdict is archaic, first introduced by the British in Ireland to stop Catholic preachers rallying the Irish! One doesn’t need much imagination to see how this legal relic will be used against Muslims.
He also says,
Even more staggering is the judge’s accusation that Lutfur Rahman ‘played the race card’. Actually he played the anti-racist card against a Labour Party establishment which has long abused the loyalty of its supporters in Tower Hamlets.
The Judge began (Richard Mawrey QC’s ruling on Tower Hamlets election court. Paragraph 152)
“…just as undue spiritual influence under s 115 of the 1983 Act is not confined to Christianity, it is equally not confined to religions which have the Christian sacraments or an equivalent, the threat of withdrawal or refusal of which can be used by clergy to influence voters. Similarly, it is not an essential ingredient of the section that the spiritual influence should be that of a monotheistic religion or of a religion which contains a belief in an afterlife where punishments and rewards are meted out for conduct in this life. In an appropriate case undue spiritual influence could be created by what some might regard as a cult, such as Mr Moon’s ‘Unification Church’ or even ‘New Age’”
He observed (Para 529) ,
The Petitioners’ case may be summarised as follows. In formulating his campaign, Mr Rahman, as well as playing the race card, was determined to play the religious card. The campaign would be targeted at Tower Hamlets ’ Muslim population with a stark message: ‘Islam is under threat: it is the religious duty of all devout Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman and his party .’ (para 530) It was not, the Petitioners said, the first time that the religious card had been played. There was a persistent history of Mr Rahman attacking his opponents who happened to be Muslim by claiming that they were not, unlike himself, devout and pious Muslims.
Continuing he remarked,
Secondly there is a substantial body of credible evidence that the Imams’ message that it was the duty of faithful Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman entered the general campaign ,with religious duty being mentioned in canvassing before the poll and to voters attending polling stations on election day.
(Para 590), Groups of supporters would approach voters, particularly Bangladeshi voters and harangue them in a manner that appeared to some onlookers to be rather aggressive.
Several witnesses from different polling stations used the phrase ‘running the gauntlet’ to describe their passage into the polling station. Others spoke of feeling ‘harassed’.(Para 591) Both English and Bengali speaking witnesses attest to THF (Rahman’s party – note) supporters shouting, amongst other things, that a) it was the duty of Bangladeshi voters to support Mr Rahman: this was normally expressed as support for Mr Rahman rather than for THF as a party; b) similarly it was the religious duty of all faithful Muslims to support Mr Rahman; c) Mr Biggs was a ‘racist. d) the Labour Party was ‘racist’ and ‘Zionist’; e) anyone voting Labour had been brainwashed against Islam.
And if ‘playing the race card’ is grounds for declaring an election void are we now going to see other candidates judged by this standard. Will UKIP councillors or MEPs be held to account? Or perhaps it’s only an accusation that applies to people who suffer racism.
He also says,
That leaves the only meaningful charge being that of misusing funds. Yet that would have to be proved in the case of every single councillor for the election as a whole to be re-run, even if it could be agreed that this is grounds for re-running elections rather than a slap on the wrist that expense fiddling MPs receive.
A serious case here of whataboutery – which we will ignore: this is the judgement on Rahman, not on the whole council.
The conclusion Rees reaches is unfortunate.
The general climate of Islamophobia (the Daily Express is already gloating) makes any accusation half believed even before it is investigated. It is of a piece with the mounting establishment hostility to the SNP. The old system is fraying and any challenge to it is being met with a full force tide of reaction. If the establishment gets away with removing one of the few councils that came to power by fighting racism and austerity, that has an admirable anti-war record, then the whole left will have suffered a setback and every racist in the country will be rejoicing. We should not let that happen.
So the whole affair can be dismissed as part of the “tide of reaction”.
Not it can’t.
The Judge ruled that there was a great deal of politiking to gain support – through grants and other mechanisms – in the Borough.
The Independent reports,
… former mayor, who was elected to a second term last year, had focused his electoral machine on the borough’s large Bangladeshi community – effectively bribing voters by targeting them with generous grants and using the influence of a senior cleric to tell Muslims it was their duty to vote for him.Mr Mawrey said: “The evidence laid before this court has disclosed an alarming state of affairs in Tower Hamlets. This is not the consequence of the racial and religious mix of the population, nor is it linked to any ascertainable pattern of social or other deprivation. It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man.”
It is well-known on the left that is explained away on the grounds that “this is Big City politics”, “they all do it.” That in this instance Rahman had acted in this way to serve a progressive – anti-austerity and broadly on the left – platform.
That’s as may be – it’s contestable. But what Rees raises is the issue of ‘religious guidance’, which, he considers irrelevant, since everybody can make up their own minds.
Clearly this was not the view of Rahman and his supporters.
Is the ‘spiritual influence’ that Rahman used, and described above in the judgement (there is more detail in the full text), acceptable?
Is screaming in a mass about religious duty, hatred of ‘Zionists’, and ‘racists’ (er, oddly conjoined), to everybody about to vote something part of “fighting racism and austerity”?
Is it ‘anti-racist’ to identify one candidate with one religion and appeal, above all, to ‘faithful Muslims’?
Is labelling – systematically – your opponent a “racist” (which is libelous if written) a campaigning strategy to follow ?
Is machine politics left politics?
Instead of yelling, ‘Islamophobia’, we should also look at Rahman’s connections with Islamism – including some of groups who can only be called racist – as part of his way of building support for his “electoral machine”.
What exactly is his stand on, and relations with, the Jimaat-i-Islami whose leaders have been accused of complicity in genocide, the mass murder of our Bengali sisters and brothers, in 1971?
This is apparently not a problem for Counterfire.
Nor, it seems, for former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Lutfur Rahman: Ken Livingstone says he hopes corrupt mayor will appeal High Court verdict says the Evening Standard.
“Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has slammed a High Court judge’s decision to void Lutfur Rahman’s election, calling the Election Commissioner an “unelected bureaucrat”.”
A dissenting voice, James Bloodworth, reminds us of a few home truths.
We must ignore the inevitable cries of “stitch up” that will now follow.
Those of us who have lived in Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets in recent years had a fair idea that something wasn’t right. An atmosphere of menace and intimidation prevailed at council meetings and a cult of personality was thrown up around Rahman himself, with posters carrying the Mayor’s face (and little else) increasingly ubiquitous in the borough. Extremist preachers were invited to speak in council chambers and council grants were directed away from secular organisations in favour of groups which mainly served the Bangladeshi and Muslim communities.
Written by Andrew Coates
April 24, 2015 at 11:57 am
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