Archive for September 25th, 2010

Oli Rahman speaks out

I have just spoken to Oliur Rahman, one of EIGHT, not seven, councillors who attended a campaign meeting for Lutfur Rahman in Brick Lane last night (the other was Ohid Ahmed).

Oli was Respect’s first ever councillor, elected back in 2004. He fell out massively with George Galloway and Abjol Miah, the then group leader on Tower Hamlets council in 2008 and retains a strong resentment to them to this day.

Here’s what he told me:

“I’m supporting Lutfur because he has been chosen as teh Labour party candidate by the members of the Labour party and the Labour party is only as strong as its members.

“As a Labour party member, and not as a councillor, I feel that the NEC and the regional London party should acknowledge that support. It’s very important that the party doesn’t forget the members.

“Therefore I’m standing by the decision that the members have taken. I don’t feel that expells me from the Labour party and it is still my home and the party for the working classes and trade unions. Ed Miliband reflects my aspirations.

“Respect is finished, but it can support whoever it likes. But I feel they have deliberately damaged Lutfur Rahman by supporting him because his opponents in Labour will now use that against him.”

I’ve known Oli for several years now, throughout the time he agonised about leaving Respect and the insults they then hurled at him. He is in no way linked to IFE. Perhaps he is someone who’s made his bed, but his position gives the whole anti-Lutfur campaign a different slant.

That momentum Lutfur is gaining will take on a whole new dimension after the Labour conference in Manchester when the likes of Cllr Marc Francis will probably announce their intentions to stay or go.

On the question of expulsions, here’s a comment from an official Labour spokesman:

“Anyone who supports a candidate standing against the party automatically expels themselves.”  

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Labour councillors defect

The full impact of Labour’s handling of the Lutfur Rahman saga is now beginning to show. Last May, they obliterated Respect in the council and parliamentary elections and now thanks to the shambolic way in which officials ran the selection process for mayor, they have, as one councillor said to me, created Respect Mark II.

This morning, I hear, seven Labour councillors have expelled themselves from the party by throwing their weight behind Lutfur.

I hear that they are Oli Rahman, Lutfa Begum and her daughter Rania Khan (all of whom defected from Respect a couple of years ago!), controversial Alibor Chodhary, and new councillors Aminur Khan and wife Rabina Khan, and Shelina Aktar.

Hardly heavyweights, but still significant. In addition, another Respect defector, Wais Islam, who lost standing for Labour in May, has also left the party by urging people to vote for Lutfur in a Benagli newspaper article yesterday.

There are now serious worries that Lutfur, with the help of those Abbas supporters who allocate their second preference vote to the only other Bangladeshi name on the slate, could creep in come October 21.

For many in Labour, that is the worst of all worlds: a independent mayor controlling the executive without any check from a constituted party.

I have a feeling that this borough will soon be the focus of some pretty interesting national attention.


Cllr Rania Khan has just confirmed to me that she did attend a campaign meeting with Lutfur last night. She said: “As you know, I will fight against any injustice and I think there has been injustice to Lutfur.”

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IFE and Tower Hamlets

Bodrul Islam was the wedding groom insulted by Jim Fitzpatrick last year. He then joined the Respect party and failed to land a Tower Hamlets council seat in May. I wrote in this post last week that he seemed to be loose with his tongue when ranting on Facebook sites.

Here’s a reminder of what he said:

The tower hamlets labour party seems to prioritise naked self interest at the expense of democracy. Abbas, that castrated prostitute has no mandate to stand as a mayoral candidate. Part of me wants to laugh at the dismantling of the labour party but the serious part of me sees the grotesque injustice against lutfur. I personally think he should do what ken livingstone did, stand as an independent. With his popularity he will win, as the block bengali vote will be activated like never before. [My emphasis].

In the comments section of that post, his rant at first continued and then his tone softened; he became more polite and tried to draw me into a debate. Maybe someone had had a word with him.  However, his latest comment makes interesting reading and I’m producing it in full here. He makes a defence the Islamic Forum of Europe, the group at the centre of allegations surrounding Lutfur Rahman. Bodrul is backing Lutfur.

Ted I hope you are okay with me sharing my analysis here on ife. Ife are a socially conservative group that encourage residents to engage with the procedural and normative aspects of democracy. How do I know this? I have seen rigorous and acrimonious debates between ife and isolationist, exclusivist groups such as hizbut tahrir and al-muhajiroun. In all occasions ife have clearly come out in support of active citizenship via the democratic route.

The notion that ife have infiltrated the labour party for theological expediency is the most obscure and bizarre argument I have heard all year. What proof do we have of this? Has secular policies in the labour party changed into theological diktats? No of course they haven’t. Is there thus a concerted effort on policy levels to islamise tower hamlets? Of course not that is pure hysteria and conjecture.

We then move to the cry that muslims also have alleged the link of ife infiltration and extremism. Those muslims who assert this are quite easy to decipher, one of the most prominent one being related to me. Their assertions are based on political self-interest emanating unfortunately from the polarised nature of politics in Bangladesh. I will put a wager that every bengali person who has alleged ife being a socially divisive and regressive is an awami league supporter. That every bengali resident in tower hamlets knows. If you as a journalist were ever to produce a mass opinion poll of bengalis in tower hamlets I will also put a wager that 90 percent plus will hold ife to be a moderate group.

Ted unless we base our assertion on nuanced analysis complimented by tangible proofs all we are going to create is mass hysteria and a clash of the extremes which will devastate social cohesion. We must prevent polarisation where muslims think of a given white person as a potential racist and where whites think of muslims as the enemy within. We all need to get away from hearsay allegations and scrutinise the matter at hand with our logical capabilities.

And here’s another reminder of the comment he made in less unguarded moments on Facebook.

With his popularity he will win, as the block bengali vote will be activated like never before.

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