Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

Islamist extremism, witch hunts, elephants in rooms and kittens

By on October 22, 2015 in Comment, News, Terrorism

Instead of dropping a large nuke or two on ISIL, Al Qaida and their sympathisers – a drastic tactic but an effective vote winner – the Government has published a PDF document outlining its counter-extremism strategy. 

Close Mr Cameron – but no cigar.

Based on the last couple of years digging around in the East End here is the LW opinion of the Government’s counter-extremism strategy.

You what where now? Some blogger mouthing off about Islamist extremism? What does LW know about this?

Actually – quite a lot. Most of which has never been published on LW. And never will be. It has been put to good use though.

So here’s our thoughts based on what we know, what we have witnessed and what we have been told. Paragraphs from the counter-extremism document are numbered. We urge you to read the original document – it ain’t long but it is specifically relevant to Tower Hamlets.

Nice one Lutfur

counter-extremism-featured

The ever alert Ted Jeory spotted that Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First cronies (most of whom are still drawing their allowances* as corruptly elected councillors) have ensured a special mention for our proud borough in the report.

“29. Beyond the direct threat of extremism, local authorities have an important role to prevent isolation and segregation within communities. In Tower Hamlets, the special election court concluded that Mayor Lutfur Rahman had breached election rules and was guilty of corrupt and illegal practices, including vote-rigging, undue spiritual influence through local imams, and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist.”

None of the above will be of any news to either of the Love Wapping readers.

While the Government’s counter-extremism strategy is to be applauded, if only in a polite ‘thanks for showing up but that was pretty lame now sod off home’ sort of way, all this is very much a case of too little too late.

The entire Love Wapping Investigative Reporting Team, led by the Wapping Mole himself, has spent the best part of two years trawling through the sewage of political corruption that has tainted the East End and knows the difference between the polite words contained in a counter-extremism strategy document and the reality on our streets.

Trojan schools? Pah! Tower Hamlets was the Trojan borough.

Only the reinstatement of basic democratic practise as a result of the victory by the Election Petitioners and the subsequent ejection of Rahman from public office saved the East End of London from being taken over by Islamist extremists.

Incredible? No. And just because Rahman and cronies have been neutered does not mean that the problem has gone away.

The real story was never about Tower Hamlets First – the story was the people behind them. That was the real threat. Of which more at another time.

Time for some areas. Maybe four?

The Government’s counter-extremism strategy has four key areas

“Countering extremist ideology – We will continue to confront and challenge extremist propaganda, ensuring no space goes uncontested, including online, promoting a better alternative, and supporting those at risk of radicalisation.

Building a partnership with all those opposed to extremism – We will go further to stand with and build the capacity of mainstream individuals, community organisations and others in our society who work every day to challenge extremists and protect vulnerable individuals.

Disrupting extremists – We will create new targeted powers, flexible enough to cover the full range of extremist behaviour, including where extremists sow division in our communities and seek to undermine the rule of law.

Building more cohesive communities – We will review, understand and address the reasons why some people living here do not identify with our country and our values. A new Cohesive Communities Programme will help those communities most at risk of isolation.”

John Biggs, Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets, has released this statement in response.

“We all want to live in a society free from the threat of violence, terrorism and brain washing, especially where young people are concerned. But it is imperative that we preserve our values of freedom of speech and thought, fairness and justice.

“Our public institutions – our schools, our colleges, our local government institutions – are keystones in providing education and services to all our population. If people in these public bodies have done wrong, are committing crimes or are planning to do so, we should have the courage to tackle them and stand up for what we believe in.

But some of the things the Government is proposing go further than that and can be seen as taking us down the path of McCarthy-like witch hunts. We cannot have judgements being made about people on the basis of their ethnic background, the colour of their skin or their religion.”

This is all very true and it is inherently wrong to judge people on the basis of their ethnicity, colour or religion. After all that is what Rahman and crew did and allocated council funding on that basis.

But while McCarthy-like witch hunts would be very bad and plain old vanilla witch hunt might be just the ticket. Of which more below.

It might be elephant time.

Afterwards Tom and Eric weren't exactly sure at which point during their discussion the elephant had entered the room (Image: David Blackwell)

Afterwards Tom and Eric weren’t exactly sure at which point during their discussion the elephant had entered the room (Image: David Blackwell)

Don’t mention the elephant

Whenever Rahman or the Tower Hamlets First clown party were criticised their default response was (and still is) the following:

  • “You are only saying that because we are Muslims!”
  • “You are only saying that because you are racists!”
  • “You are only saying that because we are Bangladeshi!”

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

They were criticised and the motivations for their behaviour scrutinised because they were corrupt people who happened to be Bangladeshi. It’s that simple.

If some corrupt Martians turn up in Poplar one day and start running the council for the benefit of their mates they will get the same treatment. Not because they are Little Green Men – but because they are corrupt.

Tower Hamlets First supporters were and always will be criticised because they are a bunch of corrupt clowns.

They will throw the usual nonsense around but clowns they are and clowns they will remain. But just because something is funny does not mean it is not dangerous.

Nazi name check

The counter-extremism strategy document makes mention of far right extremists but only because it has to.

“56. But extremism is not just Islamist. Extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi groups use their ideologies to drive a core hatred of minorities…”

Absolutely true. The fascists are just as evil as the Islamist extremists but in no way do they pose such a clear danger and imminent danger to our society as thugs such as ISIL and any other psychopath who wants to use Islam as an excuse to slaughter innocents.

The Met Police Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) and other Security Services do not get out of bed in the morning worrying about Hitler wannabees destabilising the country. The problem is Islamist extremism.

Oops. Said the elephant thing. Sorry!

IRA phone calls

When the Wapping Mole was growing up the Provisional IRA were setting off bombs in our streets on a regular basis. But at least they usually had the decency to phone in a warning. (I am not excusing the IRA one little bit- they put seven bullets into a friend of ours).

Islamist extremists make the Provos look like your favourite aunt.

So anyway off we go on a whirlwind tour of counter-extremism and how it relates to Tower Hamlets.

Supplementary schools and tuition centres

“24. We are also concerned about other educational settings, including supplementary schools and tuition centres. It has been estimated that there are over 3,000 supplementary schools in England providing education and activities for children. Most of these provide important support to children, for example in maths or a foreign language. And many provide religious and moral guidance that families find valuable. The Government values and supports the role these organisations play in society. However, there is little regulation or oversight of supplementary schools and tuition centres and limited information on the practices within them. Reports indicate that in some settings parents do not know what their children are being taught or feel unable to challenge the teaching; and pupils may be at risk of being presented with, and believing, twisted interpretations of their religion. These issues heighten the potential risks for such settings to be exploited by extremists.”

Bang on target.  Some ‘supplementary schools and tuition centres’ in the borough have been used as fronts for accessing grant money. Where that money has gone no-one knows. Some action has been taken on this but more is needed.

“72. We have also toughened up requirements on schools to make sure that identities of all governors are publicly available to parents and wider communities. And we have set an expectation that it will only be in exceptional circumstances that an individual will have the skill and capacity to serve effectively as a governor of more than two schools at any one time..”

Essential stuff. Islamist extremists across the borough and the country as a whole are adept at using the networks such our education system to establish control over the centre of a community and then use this as a base for further subversion.

“74. That is why, to address concerns about supplementary schools, the Department for Education will introduce
a new system to enable intervention in unregulated education settings which teach children intensively.”

Bingo! Continuing to identify where all Tower Hamlets grant funding has gone over the last few years at a forensic audit level will identify many of these ‘unregulated education settings’.

Then they need to be closed down. Fast.

Cash? Where do we apply?

95. In addition, we stand ready to support those in our network who seek our help. This could include – for example – providing social media training, technical assistance to enable a small charity to set up a website, or targeted funding for specific projects.

Fantastic idea! LW could do with a new website and some targeted funding. Trouble is we are not a charity and of course we are not reformed jihadis who have seen the light. Damn.

Best just close LW then.

Extremism Community Trigger

How cool is this? An ‘Extremism Community Trigger’! Wow! We want one.

No idea how it works but probably something like you get a free trigger and when you pull it you can an extremist community.

No? Oh.

Seems that an ‘Extremism Community Trigger’ is something to help the public report extremism, not trigger it.

Let’s hope these triggers aren’t established in town halls across the country.

116. Local people have a key role in identifying extremist behaviour and alerting the relevant authorities. Government will support those who want to stand up against extremism in their community and support victims.

‘Alerting the relevant authorities?’ Oh no – they do mean the town hall! We are screwed.

117. Last year we introduced a new legal duty on public bodies to review concerns about persistent anti-social behaviour, which made a difference when piloted in Manchester and other areas. Learning from this, we will introduce a new Extremism Community Trigger to guarantee that concerns about local extremism will be taken seriously. A new legal duty will ensure that the police and local authorities fully review any complaints about extremism. [LW emphasis] They will be expected to work in partnership to tackle local extremist issues, and keep the public informed about their actions.

LW is looking forward with great interest to see how this works. Should be fascinating. Or a complete and utter disaster of the first order.

If these ‘triggers’ do fail then we could always invent something like a force of police and some people who work in secret. That might work. We could get them to work together and call them the Counter Terrorism Command (CTC).

All of the issues above are critically important to maintaining democracy in the UK.

That sounds pompous. But it is also true.

Witches! Kittens! Zombies!

However the most important announcement of this week has been about witches.

Yes witches! Seems there is going to be a witch hunt and we are all invited.

Or as normal people might say there will be a hunt for extremists across the public sector. Which sounds fine to us.

If your society is being threatened by mutant zombies you go hunt them down.

If your society is being threatened by witches you have a witch hunt.

What are people supposed to hunt if Islamist extremists are the main threat? Cute kittens who look confused with life?

Gotcha!

This report in the Guardian “Government launches hunt for extremists across public sector” made LW smile. A lot.

The word ‘gotcha!’ came to mind.

The Guardian reports that there will be a major drive against the “entryist” infiltration of the public sector, charities and businesses by Islamist and other extremists as a key part of the government’s new counter-extremist strategy.

It gets better

It seems that the drive will start with a full review of all public institutions – including schools, colleges, civil service and local authorities – to safeguard them against the risk of “entryism” by extremists.

This is what is needed however unpleasant the process may be. Because dear reader this is confronting head on the problem that Tower Hamlets now faces.

Elephant – you really are in the room and we are not afraid to say so.

Our borough is infested at every level by people who are at best Islamist extremist sympathisers.

It gets worse

The politicians are no longer the problem. It is a minority of council officers.  They run the borough on a day-to-day basis and, as LW knows, are adept at covering up their tracks.

Not all of them, maybe not many of them. But that is where the danger now lurks.

Just one council officer in a very senior position can have a scary amount of power which they can, will and have used to further their own ends and those who pay them.

Scared? You should be. So should they.

*Clarification: there is no difference between the allowance paid to local councillors who have been elected corruptly and those who have been elected in accordance with the whole democracy thing it seems. Odd that.


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