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Anjem Choudary was arrested this morning. There’s an account of it on the Express website here.

He and his helpers spend a fair bit of time in Tower Hamlets.

In May last year, I broke this story for the Sunday Express…that his groupies were running a chain of children’s sweet shops called Yummy Yummy in Whitechapel and Mile End.

When I visited them, the stores stocked on their sweet counters leaflets calling for an “Islamic Revolution”. Just the kind of thing you want with your bonbons.

The business brains behind the operation was Yazdani Choudary, Anjem’s elder brother. I wrote about him in the Sunday Express in 2011 when we revealed he’d been landing government contracts for IT training in Whitechapel Road. He was aged 48 then.

Yazdani had bought the lease on a three-storey block in New Road. The basement was used as a creche and discussion centre. The ground floor at that time was used as a printing and design shop called Master Printers. A graphic designer who had spent time in jail for raising funds for terrorism overseas worked there. I spent a bit of time watching them, including Anjem, come and go.

For the floors above, Yazdani had sought permission from Tower Hamlets council’s to convert them into Islamic teaching centre for Anjem called the Centre for Islamic Services. Adverts for CIS were even run in East End Life. Planning permission was refused.

That building was raided by the police a few months later. For a while, nothing more happened.

Master Printers then closed down, but some time later Yummy Yummy appeared in its place.

It has been quite a busy sweet shop by all accounts. I imagine it takes in a fair amount of cash.

Yazdani, now 51, has always refused to comment and there is nothing to suggest he is involved in Islamic extremism.

This morning, the police announced they’d arrested nine men on suspicion of being members of a banned organisation. They were aged between 22 and 51, according to police. We know Anjem was among them and it’s thought the organisation in question is Al Muhajiroun.

A total of 18 properties were raided, including 11 in east London.

I guessed the Yummy Yummy shops would be two of them, so I went to have a look.

The detectives declined to comment and none of Anjem’s groupies were there to talk to.

I promised the detectives I would pixelate their faces from the following pictures. I hope they enjoyed the jelly babies.

yummy yummy, anjem choudary

Detective taking notes from a resident outside the Yummy Yummy shop in New Road, Whitechapel (copyright Ted Jeory)

yummy yummy, anjem choudary

Yummy Yummy, Whitechapel (copyright Ted Jeory)

yummy yummy 3

Detectives enter Yummy Yummy sweet shop in New Road (copyright Ted Jeory)

yummy yummy, Anjem Choudary

Unmarked police cars outside Yummy Yummy shop in Mile End Road (copyright Ted Jeory)

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Al-KalbaniRemember this photo from 2008? I wrote about it on this blog in 2010.

It shows Lutfur Rahman, then the council leader rather than his current position as executive mayor, with Sheikh Adel Al-Kalbani walking by the Tower Hamlets town hall at Mulberry Place.

Behind them are Rofique Ahmed and Shafiqul Haque. Both were then, like Lutfur, Labour councillors. They are now, according to officers who have worked with them, two of the least productive independent members of his cabinet (but they still get some £20k a year for their ‘work’).

Al Kalbani was at that time the Second Imam of Kabbah, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, considered by Muslims as the most sacred place on Earth.

He had been appointed to the position by the Saudi royal family shortly before his trip to the UK where he was attending the annual Islamic Global Peace and Unity event at the ExCeL centre (Lutfur spoke at this year’s gathering last month).

As he had some down time, according to a conversation I had with Lutfur about it a bit later, he decided to pop over to the town hall where he found Lutfur’s office door open and so they had a cup of tea. “He’s a very pious man,” Lutfur told me.

Ever so spontaneously, Al Kalbani then led prayers at the town hall’s second building, Anchorage House, for staff and councillors.

The episode was cited by Cllr Helal Abbas in his dossier of evidence to Labour’s NEC in 2010 as proof that Lutfur was taking a less than secular approach to politics.

In the months and years after his visit, Al Kalbani, a Sunni, seemed to develop some rather hardline views, arguably against Christian and Jews in Saudi Arabia, but particularly about Shia Muslims.

This five minute YouTube video of him in a broadcast interview is fascinating:

He says Shia scholars are apostates (the punishment for whom in Islam can be a bit harsh), that Shia laymen are ignorant, that there can be no such thing in Saudi Arabia as a “Christian citizen”: they can only be guests, because the guidance from the Prophet Mohammed was to drive Christians and Jews from that land.

In Britain, there is increasing concern about the Sunni/Shia divide. Counter-extremism experts believe the crisis in Syria, which on a simple level is Sunni rebels trying to topple Shia President Asad’s regime, might fuel latent dislike.

In May, Anjem Choudary’s hardline Salafi mob (Salafis follow the Sunni tradition) led a violent demonstration against Shias in Edgware Road.

It is possibly for this reason that the “very pious” Al Kalbani has been refused entry to the UK. Harry’s Place had a piece on this a couple of days ago, while I wrote this article for the Express yesterday. The Home Office refused to elaborate on why his visa was declined.

This Government is clearly taking a much harder line against potential problem preachers coming to these shores.

It means the Water Lily Centre on Mile End Road didn’t have a star guest today, and neither did the Esha’atul Islam Mosque in Whitechapel last night.

Adel-al-Kalbani-UK-tour
Here’s the piece I wrote for the Express:

ONE of the most senior Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia has been refused entry to the UK, just as he was to embark on a speaking tour of British mosques.

Sheikh Adel Al-Kalbani, a former senior imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, was prevented from boarding his plane in Riyadh on Wednesday.

He was due to fly to London, where he had been expected to give a lecture in Whitechapel last night and another one in Wembley today.

It is not known why a visa for Al Kalbani was refused.

He has previously been allowed into the country and in 2008 he was a guest of the then leader of Tower Hamlets council in east London, Lutfur Rahman.

Mr Rahman is now the directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets.

Since 2008, the Sunni cleric has been quoted expounding potentially divisive views regarding Shia Muslims. 

There has been increasing concern among extremism experts over attempts to divide Shia and Sunni Muslims in Britain.

Followers of radical hate preacher Anjem Choudary led a demonstration in London in May against Shia Muslims.

According to the Arab News website, Al-Kalbani had performed the noon and afternoon prayers before heading to the King Khaled International Airport.

He was quoted as saying: “I was stopped at the door of the plane and told that the authorities received a message from the British Embassy saying that I was not allowed to enter Britain.”

He said he had received his visa from the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia in October, just two weeks after submitting his application.

The British Embassy apparently did not explain why he was then later refused.

He said: “I don’t really know why they denied me entry. I was in Britain about four years ago and other countries.

“I was told that other Muslim scholars have also been denied entry and had their visas cancelled. 

“My gut feeling is that they don’t want to see me interacting with the Muslim community there.”

He said he would not be appealing the decision. He said Allah “has chosen the best for me”.

Al Kalbani was the star billing on the Qibla speaking tour over the next 10 days.

He was due to talk at the Water Lily centre in Whitechapel tomorrow, then at Luton later in the day, then Swansea and Cardiff on Sunday.

He had a talk planned in Kingston, Surrey, on Monday while Muslims in Birmingham and Walsall were due to welcome him on Christmas Eve.

A Home Office spokeswoman said she was unable to comment on specific individuals, but added: “All visa applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. 

“The onus is on the individual to ensure they provide the correct evidence when submitting an application.”

I’ll leave it for you to debate whether this sheds new light on Abbas’s warning three years ago.

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Here’s an interesting insight into the mindset of Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

On December 7, Giles Broadbent, the editor of The Wharf newspaper, wrote a strongly worded opinion column detailing his exasperation with Lutfur’s refusal to answer questions from either members of the public or councillors at full council meetings.

At the previous meeting, opposition councillors fired a whole series of allegations his way, questioning whether council resources had been misused to help his re-election campaign. The council also voted to launch an investigation into claims by the Love Wapping blog that people purporting to work for Tower Hamlets Homes were canvassing for Lutfur during the day.

On each of these questions, Lutfur, though visibly reddening and seething, remained silent. Instead, he exercised his “right” to delegate the answers to his cabinet councillors who then stumbled and mumbled their way through the explanations.

Giles quite rightly thought this shameful.

Here’s part of what he wrote:

And what did the man himself have to say about all this at a recent council meeting when challenged? Furious denial? Tearful apology? The mayor said nothing. Being made to answer to the people “is contrary to his human rights”.

To the rest of the world, this continuing policy of silence is a joke, a punchline to a risible tale of East End lunacy. To the residents of Tower Hamlets, it is a serious and barbarous insult that damages their prosperity.

Compare Tower Hamlets to Newham. Both struck by terrible social and structural problems. Yet Newham – far from perfect – is at least outward looking and positive. It has embraced the Olympics and the Docks in order to share the dividends of growth.

Mr Rahman’s Tower Hamlets is backward, self-indulgent and dim. It is ripped apart by factionalism and stymied by cronyism. And the mayor, who sits atop this stinking pile, has nothing to offer but a sulk – truly a slap in the face for the residents who crave a future, not a
fiefdom.

It is to be hoped in the 2014 election the man who has tried so hard to undermine the principle of democratic accountability will feel the potency of its sting.

Lutfur took this rather badly and feeling the sting of The Wharf’s right to free speech in an opinion column based on the events of a full council meeting, Lutfur penned a letter of reply, which has been added to the original article. Here it is:

“Your column, ‘Spiral Notebook’; ‘Rahman’s insult to Tower Hamlets’, contains a series of gross inaccuracies and unfair innuendoes.

Surely, The Wharf has a responsibility to report and comment fairly? On the basis of this particular column it would appear that neither you nor your newspaper intends to do so in the run up to the Mayoral and local government elections in May.

You made no attempt to contact this council’s communications department or me, before publishing what amounts to a series of gross inaccuracies and innuendoes.

You have made direct allegations relating to the use of branded letters.

Such allegations are very serious and potentially imply a breach of electoral law.
The actual complaint relates to unbranded, council acknowledgement letters sent pursuant to casework.

The allegations that bogus representatives from the social housing company were using their access to residents in Wapping to flog [my] re-election bid are also completely untrue.

Cllr Alibor Choudhury categorically refuted these allegations, also made by the local Labour Party, in Full Council on 27 November. I also categorically refuted these claims in Cabinet on Wednesday 4 December. My rebuttal and that of Councillor Choudhury were carried in the East London Advertiser on Monday 2 December.

How, in these circumstances, you could run with these heavily contested and baseless allegations, let alone print them without putting them to me, is beyond me.

Similar claims have been made before, and the resulting police investigations have consistently found them to be baseless and a waste of police time.

Your comparisons between Tower Hamlets and Newham are insulting and inane. You may be interested to learn that not a single question has been asked of Mayor Sir Robin Wales, in any meeting of full council in the past seven months. In Tower Hamlets most of the political parties are represented. In Newham, all sixty councillors are from Sir Robin Wales’ party.

Perhaps The Wharf prefers a ‘one party borough’ solution?

I have never claimed that answering questions would ‘breach my human rights’ as you claim. I simply delegate the business of council to lead councillors, as is common-place in other local authorities.

I attend hundreds of public meetings where I am directly accountable to electors (rather than to opposition parties who were roundly rejected at the last election but by mere virtue of the electoral cycle continue to boast a majority in the chamber) and hold frequent press conferences where you and other journalists are welcome to hold me to account.

As a regular contributor to The Wharf, I had come to expect a whole lot better from your newspaper. I do hope that normal service may be resumed shortly.

Some who have read that last paragraph believe it’s an implied threat to withdraw his frequent offers of editorial magic. I’m not so sure it is, but if so…how the editors of the Bengali press must quake…

And as for his statement he holds frequent press conferences, does he? I don’t think I’ve ever been invited to one.

Anyway, let’s all applaud Lutfur’s determination to hold himself to account and also his championing of free speech.

I mean, free speech without intimidation and threats is a good thing right?

So what was Lutfur’s response to Anjem Choudary’s trip down Brick Lane last Friday when his Shariah Project groupies handed out mock-legal leaflets warning Bengali restaurateurs they faced hellfire or 40 lashes (take your pick!) for selling booze?

The East London Advertiser reports him saying:

We strongly believe in the right to free speech and association, and I am pleased that, with the police’s support, this group were able to exercise that right whilst upholding respect for our communities, which is the hallmark of our ‘No Place for Hate’ pledge.

He has to be kidding, right? Exactly what respect was Anjem showing to those he wants burnt in hell? Let’s remember that included in Amjem’s band of supporters are those convicted or terror and hate-related offences.

Only nine days ago, Anjem was reported in the Standard as saying the Muslim Patrol thugs who were convicted this month for abusing and attacking non-Muslims in Tower Hamlets deserved a “pat on the back”.

So isn’t Lutfur effectively saying, ‘You’re welcome to come back to protest and intimidate in Tower Hamlets any time you like?’

Which is a bit different to the message he rightly sends to that other fascist group, the English Defence League, which also claimed it merely wanted to exercise free speech.

I wonder if Lutfur, with this potential ‘one rule for one’ mentality secretly wants to provoke another visit by the EDL before next May.

By way of contrast, here are the thoughts of Labour group leader Sirajul Islam and the Muslim Council of Britain on Anjem’s visit:

Cllr Sirajul Islam, leader of the Labour group, said: “While Muslims may choose to abstain from alcohol, it is not right to forcefully push one view upon others.”

He added: “Provocative attempts to push a radical Sharia agenda will serve only to widen the divide between our communities, especially in light of the recent challenges we have faced from the EDL and so called ‘Muslim patrols’.”

Salman Farsi from the London Muslim Centre said: “While Islam may prohibit the consumption and sale of alcohol for Muslims, it is not for any particular groups to impose those views on others, nor bully other communities.”

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Anjem Choudary, the brains behind the chain of Yummy Yummy sweet shops in Tower Hamlets (and a charming hate preacher to boot) is calling on his little groupies to march in Brick Lane at 2pm today.

His target is alcohol, which he apparently used to love in great quantities while Andy Choudary the student at Southampton University.

anjem-choudary-b

His message could be that if you drink loads of booze, you’ll turn out like him. And that surely would be a good warning.

But he’s not saying that. He’s saying alcohol is an abomination os Satan and if you “leave it, you can be successful”. Er, just like him.

Having had many of his predecessor groups such as Al Muhajiroun and Islam4UK banned by the Home Secretary, another website called the Shariah Project has popped up.

And that’s where we can see his latest threatening leaflet, which might well have been distributed in Brick Lane (i don’t know if it has) where the intention is to intimidate the many Bengali curry restaurant workers from selling booze. It’s the Muslim Patrol v2.

They purport to be “legal notices from the Department of Regulation at Tower Hamlets Council”. But they’re clearly fake because any fool knows Tower Hamlets council doesn’t do regulation.

Anjem letter

Department ofBusiness Regulation

Tower Hamlets

RE: YOUR LICENCE TO SELL ALCOHOL HAS BEEN REVOKED – DO NOT IGNORE THIS LETTER

Dear Business Owner

This letter is legal notice that you have no legal permission to sell, serve or stock alcohol atyour premises. If you are still stocking, serving or selling any alcoholic products beverages, you must cease immediately.

Failure to comply with this notice to cease trading in alcoholic products is illegal and you will be liable to severe penalties as will be explained in this letter. Please note that you have noright to appeal this decision and you cannot apply for any further licences to serve alcohol on these premises or any other businesses you are associated with.

You have been formally warned that you are breaking the Prohibition of the sale of alcohol law chapter 4, sect. 90 of the Quran, which states: “Alcohol, gambling, divination of arrowsare only abominations of satan, so leave it so that you can be successful.” And in thetradition of Muhammad recorded in Abu Dawood v.4 p.207, “Whenever Allah has prohibiteda thing, it is prohibited to benefit from it or its outcome.” And in Musnad Ahmed, “Verily if Allah has prohibited for people the consumption of a thing, He also has prohibited its sale.” And in Tirmidhi No.2776, Anas ibn Malik narrated that “Allah’s Messenger cursed ten peoplein connection with alcohol: the presser, the one who has it pressed, the one who drinks it,the one who conveys it, the one to whom it is conveyed, the one who serves it, the one whosells it, the one who benefits from the price paid for it, the one who buys it, and the one forwhom it is bought.”

The penalty for failing to cease drinking, serving or selling alcohol includes the curse of Allah, punishment by hellfire in the afterlife and if found guilty in a shariah court following theestablishment of the upcoming Islamic state you could be liable to forty lashes publically. 

DO NOT IGNORE THIS LETTER

If you have any questions regarding this notice or if you would like more information aboutwhat to do next, please visit http://www.iqaamah.co.uk/legalnotice/ or you can contact us by phone on 07956041034. For further information in Bengali contact 07939349760

The thing is, I agree with him. I think anyone buying booze from Brick Lane’s curry houses deserves to go to hell fire. I mean,you never know what they’re serving. Remember this?

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About this time two years ago, I wrote this:

My own view, as outlined here, is that the EDL should be banned as an organisation. I’ve seen them for myself on marches and they’re little more than a bunch of football hooligans who give both football and free speech a bad name. They go out to provoke and they glory in trying to outwit the likes of Anjem Choudary and the police when it comes to the former’s demonstrations.

So the Met’s decision yesterday to ask Theresa May to ban the EDL marching through Tower Hamlets last week is a good thing. Well done to Mayor Lutfur Rahman and all the other politicians and grass roots activists who helped persuade Scotland Yard. It was an easy win-win for Lutfur, but he grabbed the opportunity.

Plus ca change.

Pic credit: East London Advertiser

Pic credit: East London Advertiser

Credit must again go to Mayor Lutfur and his advisers for seizing yet another gift on a plate from the thickies of the EDL. How he must secretly love them.

And how his people must be laughing at Labour on this: he’s run rings around them.

Last year, Labour’s then group leader Josh Peck and many of his councillors decided to abstain from attending the counter-EDL rally. Josh’s view was that the UAF (Unite Against Fascism) was staging a demo as a precursor to a punch-up with the EDL. As it happens, he was right on that point of fact. But politically, even some of his allies think that was a mistake.

I’m told John Biggs thinks it was an error, which is why he was there in Altab Ali Park yesterday. Yet even under his leadership, Labour has allowed itself to be the object of ridicule and on the back foot. Their long-planned summer barbecue scheduled for yesterday was unfortunate timing, but how anyone failed to spot much earlier that it would be politically problematic is really quite odd.

If they are to beat Lutfur next May, they need to sharpen up their PR act big time…and quickly.

But let’s look at Lutfur’s tactics. His strategy for more than three years now has been to present himself to the Bengali community (via the press, satellite Bangladeshi TV channels and The Guardian) as the martyred Muslim victim of an evil racist plot by the Right-wing media, the institutionally racist decision-making bodies of Labour’s NEC and the anti-Muslim Peter Golds-led Tower Hamlets Tory party.

So when the English Defence League threaten to march this way, he becomes not just the martyr but also the hero leader: a modern-day Boudicca of the East End (in a Mercedes, not a chariot). He’s been telling his friendly uncritical TV channels (including the ones he now so generously helps to fund with council money) that it’s all Labour’s fault the EDL are coming.

He tells them that Andrew Gilligan’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme in March 2010 (disclosure: I appeared in it) was the main inspiration for the EDL. He says because Labour also played a part in that documentary (Jim Fitzpatrick was another interviewee), and because the accusations he was linked to Islamic fundamentalism were a big factor in his expulsion from Labour in summer 2010), Labour is thus responsible for the arrival of Stella-swigging monsters on the borough’s doorstep.

He then gleefully adds: “Look at what Labour are doing to stop them coming: they’re having a barbecue!” He has skewered them.

A classier group of politicians would then have let their actions do the talking; if you have the moral high ground, keep quiet and stay there. But Lutfur’s people can’t help themselves: they say any political leader not at yesterday’s rally cannot be in favour of Lutfur’s One Tower Hamlets mantra. The irony of this rally fascism is undoubtedly lost on them.

So where were the borough’s two MPs yesterday, they ask? Where was Peter Golds? I had a Twitter conversation about this with Lutfurite councillor Kabir Ahmed this morning.

There seemed to be some underlying implication that Peter is not as opposed to the EDL and fascism as Kabir is. Which given the sufferings of Peter’s family in the Holocaust is more than unfortunate. I then asked Kabir if he condemned the homophobic and anti-Semitic abuse that I’ve witnessed aimed at Peter by Lutfur’s supporters in the council chamber.

He was among the first Tower Hamlets councillors to sign the Hope not Hate pledge, he told me; he was a Hope not Hate champion…but repeatedly, Kabir refused to condemn those specific incidents by his own supporters. Such leadership.

There were probably other factors in the decision by some to stay away yesterday. They probably didn’t want to be associated with two of the rally’s predominant contingents: those strange bed-fellows, the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Islamic Forum of Europe.

I’m told the IFE had a 1,000 stewards out on the streets of Whitechapel yesterday. They were everywhere, even guarding the main stage in Altab Ali Park where speakers couldn’t help talking about the need not to strike Syria (the EDL would have applauded that). It was also the same stage onto which John Biggs was apparently initially declined entry.

I also saw a couple of IFE stewards standing guard opposite the Yummy Yummy sweet shop in New Road. I thought that might have been a coincidence, but it probably wasn’t. That sweet shop was no doubt highlighted as a potential EDL target…because, as I revealed earlier this year, it’s run by Anjem Choudary and his crowd.

You see, although the East London Mosque hasn’t exactly helped itself by failing to prevent homophobic and hate-fuelled sermons from the likes of Anwar al-Awlaki in the past, Anjem is the EDL’s biggest enemy. They follow him and his helpers everywhere. They’re on the same intellectual level.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the United East End umbrella group of community groups etc etc take a stance on Anjem’s presence in the borough? Perhaps Lutfur and Kabir should organise a rally against him and his gang of terror groupies. I doubt we’d ever see the EDL again if he did that.

(And by the way, I hear that the Black Bloc anti-fascist group, many of whose members were arrested trying to attack the EDL yesterday, have started taking an interest in the Islamofascist tendencies of some Jamaat e Islami groups in the borough: that could be very interesting…).

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