Andrew Gilligan, Telegraph, April 4, 2015
A front group for Muslim extremists which wants to let British Muslims fight in Syria has boasted that it is “negotiating with the Tory and Labour leadership” to secure some of its demands.
Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) has built links with both parties–and been chosen as an “official partner” by the Electoral Commission for May’s poll–after claiming to promote “democratic engagement” by Muslims. However, it is actually a facade to win political access and influence for individuals holding extreme, bigoted and anti-democratic views.
Labour’s shadow equalities minister and vice-chair of its national policy forum, Kate Green, spoke at a Mend event last Friday addressed by a man, Abu Eesa Niamatullah, who has called British people “animals,” demanded that women should not work, attacked democracy and said that “the Creator is the one who should decide what the laws should be.”
Baroness Warsi, the former Tory chairman, also spoke at the event.
In new recordings heard by this newspaper, Sufyan Ismail, Mend’s chief executive, describes the group’s strategy to act as “kingmaker” in next month’s election and claims it can control as many as 30 seats.
One Tory candidate in a winnable seat was repeatedly approached by a well-known Muslim figure offering large sums of money for his campaign if he signed up to Mend’s “Muslim manifesto.” The manifesto was launched last month at an event in Parliament attended by at least ten Labour and Conservative MPs, though there is no evidence any of them were paid by Mend. Lynton Crosby, the Conservative campaign director, has attended Mend events.
Mend’s director of engagement, Azad Ali, is an extremist who has supported the killing of British troops, praised the al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki and said that “democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the Sharia, of course no-one agrees with that.”
Mend is holding a series of events this weekend with other extremist, anti-democratic speakers and has close links to the pro-terrorist lobby group Cage.
In a talk seen by the Telegraph at the Zakariyya Central Mosque in Bolton, Mr Ismail said a strong performance by the group’s chosen candidates could make it easier for British citizens to fight in Syria.
“David Cameron recently said that British Jews fighting for the IDF [Israeli army] will not be prosecuted,” Mr Ismail said.
“But British Muslims going to Syria fighting against Assad . . . will definitely face interrogation. Now do you think that if we landed those 20 seats or 30 seats, he [Cameron] would have the audacity to say that to the Muslim community? Not a chance!”
Mr Ismail also claimed that British society “hates us” and that British law specifically allowed violence against Muslims while protecting other groups.
“It’s not a crime to use violent or threatening words or behaviour [against Muslims],” he said.
“It’s perfectly OK under UK law to hate Islam and Muslims, it’s not a problem . . . if you’re Muslim, [the law says] you can take liberties big time, that’s why women are getting their hijabs ripped off.”
In fact, there were 550 prosecutions for religiously-aggravated hate crime–most of it anti-Muslim–last year and hundreds more for anti-Muslim crimes under the standard laws against assault and vandalism.
Mr Ismail claimed that a 2013 arson attack which destroyed a Muslim community centre in Muswell Hill had been condoned by the rest of society, saying: “Did you hear one politician condemn it? Even one politician? When was the last time you saw a church burnt to the ground–I bet you can’t think of one.”
The attack was widely condemned by politicians of all parties, including the London mayor, Boris Johnson, who described it as “cowardly” and “pathetic,” the Northern Ireland secretary and local MP, Theresa Villiers, who called it “despicable” and “an attack on all of us” and the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, who said it was a “hate crime.”
At least a dozen churches or church buildings have been burnt to the ground in arson attacks in recent years, and many others seriously damaged.
Mr Ismail also claimed that there were “500 physical attacks” on Muslims, “mainly women,” in London in 2013.
This was the total number of alleged Islamophobic crimes reported to police that year, the vast majority of which were not physical attacks on people.
He cited cases up to eight years old as showing that there was a wave of serious violence happening against Muslims “now” and stated that anti-Muslim hate crime had risen by “more than just about any other hate crime you can imagine.”
In fact, it has risen by less than many other forms of hate crime, including anti-Semitic and homophobic crime, both of which are also far greater per head of population.
The demand to legalise Syria fighters does not appear in Mend’s “Muslim manifesto.”
But the manifesto does demand that Whitehall builds links, cut under the coalition government, with non-violent Islamists.
It also says that “insulting” Islam should be made a criminal offence.
Mend strongly supports Cage and has held joint meetings with it, including in Manchester on November 28 last year. In another talk, at a mosque in Cheadle, Cheshire, Mr Ismail said Cage and another group linked to Syrian jihadis, IERA, “do a really good job.”
As well as Mr Niamatullah, the group also promotes Haitham al-Haddad, a hate preacher who describes democracy as “filthy” and says that “all the kuffar [an insulting term for non-Muslims] will go to hellfire.”
Haddad adds, however, that Muslims are “allowed to vote for a kafir [infidel] system in order to avoid a bigger kafir system taking power.”
Mr Ismail, a tax avoidance millionaire worth a reported £65 million, told the Bolton meeting how the group had organised to “batter the Israeli lobby” in the Commons.
Referring to the election, he said: “Right now, we are negotiating with the Labour leadership, we are negotiating with the Tory leadership and insh’allah [God willing] will start with the Lib Dem leadership as well, where we have a list of manifesto pledges.
“The Muslim vote is worth ten ordinary votes because . . . we are heavily concentrated in a few areas,” he said.
“Anybody who can give any one party 10, 20, 30 seats, like we can, they have to listen to you.”
Tory sources said Mr Crosby wanted nothing further to do with Mend and did not know why the group was approved to hold a fringe meeting.
However, the party did not respond to questions about Mend’s claim to be in “negotiations” with its leadership.
A Labour spokesman denied any negotiation, saying: “We receive submissions and requests from hundreds of organisations, but it is completely wrong to suggest Mend has any influence over Labour’s manifesto process.”