Admittedly, this post is entering dangerous territory, but as many commenters on this blog have noted before, the politics of Bangladesh have an important influence on various institutions in Tower Hamlets. Any visit by that country’s leading politicians is a great event and also a chance to gauge which way our own elected politicians lean.
When the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, visited in January, I’m told that Lutfur Rahman did not meet her: whether this was because he was snubbed or he declined, I’m not sure. Hasina leads the left-leaning Awami League, a party that is currently aiming to try those accused of war crimes (including allegedly one very senior former member of the East London Mosque) 1971 War of Independence. As a guide, former Labour group leader, Helal Abbas, is a supporter of the Awami League, which also has links to the respected Brick Lane Mosque.
The main opposition party in Bangladesh is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). It is described as a centre-right party and according to its Wikipedia entry:
Ideologically, the party has professed Bangladeshi nationalism, described as the Islamic consciousness of the people of Muslim majority Bangladesh, in order to counter the secular Awami League.
There is more:
Hundreds of its leaders, including Khaleda Zia, her sons as well as dozens of its former ministers and lawmakers were arrested on corruption charges by the military-backed Caretaker government of Bangladesh during the 2006–2008 Bangladeshi political crisis. The party has also been accused of turning a blind eye to the growth of militant Islamic extremism in the country and for allying itself with Islamic fundamentalist parties, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, which had also opposed the independence of Bangladesh.
Jamaat e Islami wants an Islamic Republic of Bangladesh and it is associated with the spread of Deobandi Islam, a fundamentalist form of Islam followed by the Taliban and linked to Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.
When I asked Lutfur about his views on Bangladesh politics in 2008, published on this blog last year here, he said:
TJ: People say that IFE supports Jamaat e Islami in Bangladesh. What are your views on that?
LR: OK. That is something I don’t know. In terms of Bangladeshi politics, yeah, I don’t belong to a party and I don’t even support a party in Bangladesh, nor do I get involved in anything to do with Bangladeshi parties. I’m so happy that we’ve got a democratically elected government after two years of quasi-military rule. I’m grateful that people have seen sense and elected a democratically elected government, a socially progressive government in Bangladesh. I don’t get involved in Bangladeshi politics because I don’t even know anything about it.
So interesting then that is he today hosting a lunch at Mulberry Place at 2.30pm today for BNP Opposition leader Khaleda Zia, then later a formal reception for councillors at 4pm. I’d imagine there might be a protest.