The Puzzle that is Islamic Forum Europe
For the duration of the Lutfur Rahman administration of 2010 to 2014 the London Borough of Tower Hamlets was under the control of Islamic Forum Europe (IFE), a fundamental Islamist group inspired by the teachings of Abul Ala Maududi and his Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Assembly) organisation.
Voters in London’s East End will immediately notice that neither Islamic Forum Europe, Abul Ala Maududi or Jamaat-e-Islami have ever appeared on a ballot paper during any election.
Lutfur Rahman’s picture has appeared on many ballot papers in the borough as well as bus stops, recycling lorries and any council property that could be painted.
Simple fact is that those who voted for Independent Mayoral candidate Lutfur Rahman in 2010 or Tower Hamlets First Mayoral candidate Lutfur Rahman in 2014 got IFE Mayor Lutfur Rahman.
And with IFE they got Abul Ala Maududi and Jamaat-e-Islami too.
And everyone else in the borough got this particular deal as well – they just didn’t realise it.
This is not how democracy works.
Because in short Tower Hamlets First is a front for Jamaat-e-Islami which in turn hides behind Islamic Forum Europe.
What is Islamic Forum Europe?
This is a puzzle that has baffled many people for quite a few years now, so it should come as no surprise that IFE members never mention their membership in public.
A bit like the Freemasons but with no secret handshakes.
As previously detailed on LW a significant number of London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council (LBTH) are members of IFE. None of them seem too keen on advertising this.
So in this and the next few posts Love Wapping will try and explain what IFE is, how they are organised and what they have been up to in an inner London borough that has some of the worst poverty in Europe sandwiched between the City of London and Canary Wharf.
In particular we will look at:
- The structure of Islamic Forum Europe and associated organisations
- The ideology behind IFE and Jamaat-e-Islami
- The internal organisational structure of IFE in Tower Hamlets
- How IFE created a shadow administration within the borough
- Various IFE antics in the Borough
Although LW has been aware of much of this since 2013 it is only now, as the new Labour administration shakes out the council administration, that details of what has gone on have emerged.
Much is still to be revealed.
It’s that elephant again
IFE is the elephant in the room that never gets discussed in Tower Hamlets. Partly this is because many people have no idea that IFE even exists. Handy if you are a IFE member, problematic if you are trying to work out what the hell has been happening this borough for the last few years.
A year after the administration of Lutfur Rahman was judged corrupt there are those in the borough who like to think that IFE disappeared with Rahman.
This is incorrect. IFE is alive and well. It may be that they are changing their name and morphing into another group but they are still at work.
To believe that IFE has vanished would be to continue turning a blind eye to an issue which successive UK governments have failed to address since at least 2009 if not longer. This is partly due to the British trait of excessive politeness and obsession with political correctness, but mainly because the problem is perceived as being too big to solve.
Recent failures by the Metropolitan Police and the Information Commissioners Office to detect criminality when it has obviously taken place (electoral crime, mass data theft at Tower Hamlets Homes) would suggest that the authorities are still scared of directly addressing the problem of IFE.
Their enquiries have also been stalled by Tower Hamlets Council officers.
First Militant Tendency, now Islamic Forum Europe
IFE is an entryist organisation that has wormed its way inside Tower Hamlets Council in the same way that the Militant Tendency took over Liverpool during the 1980’s.
If IFE has nothing to hide then it should field its own candidates in local and national elections instead of hiding behind a bunch of clowns like Tower Hamlets First.
IFE could then present its case for er, whatever it is and whatever it does, in the context of public debate.
Many journalists have attempted to discover the truth about IFE and what it gets up to in the borough with varying degrees of success.
Andrew Gilligan has been quite indefatigable, running story after story in the Daily Telegraph about the jolly chaps of the IFE and a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary regarding Rahman’s links to the IFE
“Dispatches can reveal that this mosque complex[the ELM] houses a fundamentalist organisation. And that taxpayers are unwittingly helping to finance its planned and co-ordinated bid to infiltrate British politics.” (Dispatches – Islamic Republic – March 2010).
East End politics watcher Ted Jeory has put in more hours at council meetings and written more words than the rest of the media put together. Many of his reports directly addressed the relationship between Lutfur Rahman and the IFE:
“But [what] was memorable was the laying on the table of Lutfur’s IFE card. (The Islamic Forum of Europe is based at the East London Mosque and is considered a Jamaat-e-Islami group which favours an Islamic Republic of Bangladesh.” (Lutfur launches a political party and declares his love for the IFE, October 2013)
Ted Jeory is the only journalist to provide the general public with proper scrutiny of Tower Hamlets First on a regular basis. One his most revealing posts was this one concerning the occasion when there was an overt attempt by Tower Hamlets First councillors to “try to shift the goalposts and make the IFE appear mainstream.”
Panorama – The Mayor and Our Money
Investigative journalist John Ware brought the spotlight of BBC’s Panorama to bear on Rahman’s administration and made the UK aware of what some might have previously considered an East End oddity with his documentary ‘The Mayor and Our Money’.
As the title indicates the focus of the Panorama documentary was alleged irregularities with the allocation of council grants – all of which was eventually proven and Rahman consequently kicked out of office.
Maybe Mr Ware will return to make another Panorama? Let’s hope so. We promise to get him a decent researcher this time.
Our MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, is also on record as calling out IFE for what it is.
“They [IFE] are acting almost as an entryist organisation, placing people within the political parties, recruiting members to those political parties, trying to get individuals selected and elected so they can exercise political influence and power, whether it’s at local government level or national level.” Islamic radicals ‘infiltrate’ the Labour Party, Telegraph, February 2010.
Not a national newsroom
As a small online publication LW does not have the resources of a national newspaper or TV news organisation, so we have constrained our investigations to letting the Wapping Mole dig wherever he likes, talking to all sorts of people across the borough and looking at the IFE website. Hardly cutting edge stuff. But it seems to work.
LW has been investigating various odd goings on in Tower Hamlets for two years now. This post starts with some of the first work we did when we had a look at the website of IFE at http://www.islamicforumeurope.com/.
Pretty simple stuff for any organisation nowadays, put some basic information on the internet to allow people who are interested in you to find out a bit more and get in touch.
LW spent quite some time looking at the IFE site in November 2013 – January 2014, seeing what IFE said it did and which other organisations it worked with.
Good job we did it then because the IFE website has recently vanished. Odd that.
Whatever the reason if you click on http://www.islamicforumeurope.com/ you are not going to be able to see anything of use. You will see this error message which means the IFE site has disappeared. By our reckoning in around March 2016.
Why so shy guys?
In addition to the IFE website vanishing their various Facebook groups, previous open, are now all closed. Anyone would think they have something to hide.
Wayback Machine to the rescue!
Apart from the original detailed schematic (or website map) our team created in November 2013 – January 2014 we have spent a few days using our wonderful friend and ally the Internet Archive known as the Wayback Machine. We have used the Wayback Machine before to expose some porkies told by the previous Mayor by highlighting the original archived web page and the edited version.
This time we have just used the Wayback Machine to view, screen grab and download the original IFE webpages. Why bother? Because if you look there is some very interesting stuff on the IFE site, both in terms of its own content and the organisations it works with. All out there for you to see. Or at least it was.
Here is what you would have seen visiting the IFE site in October 2013.
Pretty dull stuff. All that LW has done is map the IFE website and then generate a diagram of the links between the various organisations that are either a component part of IFE or affiliated with IFE.
We can safely assume that this mapping from digital to real world is an accurate reflection of the IFE’s organisation because of this extract from this IFE document (PDF) issued in response to C4’s “Britain’s Islamic Republic’ documentary.
“It is common knowledge within the community that IFE and ELM/LMC are closely associated. These links are entirely open and there is absolutely nothing sinister about that whatsoever. The links are clear, both from the ELM’s website (which lists events run by IFE at ELM/LMC) and from the IFE’s website which carries a link to ELM. IFE’s Head Office is based in the Business Wing of the LMC.”
Thanks to IFE for endorsing our research methodology. So off we go on IFE tours!
Islamic Forum Europe & Associated Organisations
To reiterate all of the information in the diagram is – or was – in the public domain. Below is the same information in text format with some simple explanations.
Islamic Forum Europe Site Structure
Islamic Forum Europe (Main site) [Internet Archive]
The YMO is the Youth Wing of the IFE and further details of its component parts (below) are very difficult to find out any information about. They are:
- University Link Project (ULP) [No web presence]
- College Link Project (CLP) [No web presence]
- School Link Project (SLP) [No web presence]
- Big Link Dinner [No web presence]
Muslimaat UK is the Women’s Wing of the IFE. When mapped the Muslimaat UK site referenced from the IFE site mentioned the groups below:
- Wapping Women’s Centre
- St. Hilda’s Centre
- Somali Integration Team
- Ocean Women’s Association
- Newlon Fusion
- Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences
IFE Educational Institute
The Educational Institute of the IFE references these educational establishments which as you can see cover all age ranges:
- Al Baseera Institute of Arabic & Islamic Studies
- Al Mizan Hifz (Primary School)
- London East Academy (Secondary School)
- Saturday Islamic School
- Summer School
It is wrong to claim that the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre (ELMC) building is dedicated to the works of the IFE. However it is the main office of IFE in the UK and Europe and the IFE helped to get it built.
The ELMC houses many more organisations (it’s a big place) and it is rightly a centre of the Whitechapel community, providing a wide range of valuable services to the community both locally and across the borough.
At the time of analysis the groups below were referenced from the IFE site:
- North African Community Association (NACA) [No web presence]
- Somali Development Association (Al Shafie Institute) [No web presence]
- MADE in Europe (Muslim Action for Development in Europe)
- Maryam Centre
- Faith in Health
- Improving School Attendance Partnership (ISAP)
- Islam Awareness Project (IAP)
- East London Mosque Women’s Relief
- Junior Muslim Circle (JMC)
- Rainbow House Children’s Centre (Pre School)
Other IFE & YMO branches in UK
- Islamic Forum Europe – North East Region (Manchester)
- Islamic Forum Europe – Bradford, West Yorkshire
- Islamic Forum Europe (Newham)
- Islamic Forum Europe (Luton)
- Islamic Forum Europe (West Midland Branch)
- Islamic Forum Europe (Oldham) Oldham
- Young Muslim Organisation (Oldham)
- Young Muslim Organisation (Manchester)
- Young Muslim Organisation UK (Sunderland)
IFE in other countries
From a 2009 archive version of the IFE site this list of IFE international branches was found:
The above is intended to illustrate the scale of IFE in Tower Hamlets, the UK and abroad.
It’s a website – so what?
The only thing that the above shows is that the IFE has – or had – a website which explained some of its own structure and those organisations with which it had an association.
Last time we checked there is nothing wrong with this, otherwise Ikea and Amazon would be in deep trouble.
But then Ikea and Amazon aren’t political organisations. IFE is an active political and religious organisation that had, and still has, an extensive network of influence across the borough.
Some of this influence was exercised through the administrations of Lutfur Rahman which used the powers that come with a directly elected Executive Mayor to run rings around the Labour and Conservative opposition, central Government and virtually everyone else.
The idea of directly elected Mayor’s was the brain child of Tony Blair. Yep, that bad.
In an article entitled “Directly elected mayors are not an effective model for England” Councillor Richard Kemp (Liberal Democrat, Liverpool City Council) highlights the key reasons why some think a directly-elected Mayor is a good thing.
- Mayors will be more visible and will clearly be seen to be leaders of their communities
- The mayoral system will bring in a new type of person to stand
- The mayoral system will provide better leadership
- Councils will be better run
- Turnout will be higher
Residents of Tower Hamlets can stop rolling on the floor laughing now.
Mayors will be more visible and will clearly be seen to be leaders of their communities
Well that was very true – Rahman’s image was everywhere, numerous photos in every edition of the council newspaper, on the side of council vehicles, on bus stops. Rahman himself however was not visible at all. The Mayor’s refusal to answer questions during Tower Hamlets council meetings is the stuff of legend in the East End. In four years he only answered four questions from residents and councillors, refusing to answer 200 more. Why? Because to be forced to answer would breach his human rights. Seriously.
The mayoral system will bring in a new type of person to stand
Er… yes that is true in a way too. If your definition of ‘new’ is corrupt.
The mayoral system will provide better leadership
Better leadership to who? His own councillors and his own favoured parts of Tower Hamlets but nowhere else. Wards that did not have a history of voting for the Mayor found themselves starved of grants and basic facilities and maintenance.
Councils will be better run
Lutfur Rahman and his agents used the borough as their own personal fiefdom. The basic nuts and bolts mechanisms essential to the day-to-day running of any local authority were left to fester, leaving the new Labour administration with a system that barely works. The lack of a Chief Executive during Rahman’s time is testimony to this. Without a Chief Executive Rahman could do what he liked with no check on his powers.
Turnout will be higher
If ‘turnout’ means postal votes then this was very true. Of which more in other stories in this series.
As Cllr. Kemp predicted the directly elected Mayoral system leads to a cult of personality:
“Personality cults – Blairism – Thatcherism are usually self defeating as the power is narrowly drawn into to a smaller and smaller group of people they lose touch with reality and take on messianistic habits”
Lutfur Rahman’s Cadre System
It is not easy to work out what type of system ran the London Borough of Tower Hamlets during Rahman’s reign do to its secretive nature. It was certainly not chaotic – quite the opposite. Islamic Forum Europe has the best electoral machine in the UK by far.
As a result of the investigative work LW has undertaken we think that Rahman’s administration could best be described as a cadre system. This definition from Wikipedia:
“The appointment by a government’s [or local authority] governing party of a loyalist to an institution, as a means of circumventing public reporting lines and bringing that institution under the control of the party, as opposed to the state. It involves the creation of a parallel power structure to the constitution, so that party members answer first to the party and second to the public. In turn, that party advances its interests ahead of those of the public.”
How the cadre system of Lutfur Rahman’s Independent / Tower Hamlets First / Islamic Forum Europe / Jamaat-e-Islami party operated will be described in future posts.
For more information
- Abul Ala Maududi (Wikipedia)
- Blair’s pet idea for elected mayors revived (Daily Telegraph)
- Britain’s Islamic Republic (Dispatches) Channel 4
- Cadre System (Wikipedia)
- Counter-Extremism Strategy (Home Office)
- Extremism in Britain: Now the crackdown is launched (Daily Telegraph)
- Government launches hunt for extremists across public sector (Guardian)
- How to Radicalize an Entire London Borough (Gatestone Institute)
- IFE loses its grip on Tower Hamlets (Guardian)
- Inspectors appointed to investigate London borough of Tower Hamlets (DCLG)
- Islamic radicals ‘infiltrate’ the Labour Party, (Daily Telegraph)
- Islamic Forum of Europe (Wikipedia)
- Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (Wikipedia)
- Lutfur Rahman becomes a footnote in the history of UK extremism (The Wharf)
- Lutfur Rahman’s contempt for democracy revealed (Tower Hamlets Labour Party)
- Lutfur Rahman: Disgraced former Tower Hamlet mayor ‘misled’ mortgage companies, says judge (Independent)
- Lutfur launches a political party and declares his love for the IFE, (Trial by Jeory
- Lutfur Rahman: My part in exposing the mayor in the face of verbal attacks and threats (Independent)
- ‘More proof needed that Tower Hamlets has recovered from claims of corruption and fraud’ (Evening Standard)
- Shame of Metropolitan Police as it fails Tower Hamlets (Love Wapping)
- The Mayor and Our Money (BBC Panorama)
- Tower Hamlets Council
- Tower Hamlets data theft – ICO gives up search for guilty (Love Wapping)
- Tower Hamlets: lessons of the Lutfur Rahman affair (Guardian)
- Tower Hamlets mayoral campaign: Why Respect’s Abjol Miah backs Lutfur Rahman (East London Advertiser)
- Tower Hamlets election fraud mayor Lutfur Rahman removed from office (BBC)