How fundamental Islamists hijacked the East End of London Part 2

In the British Indian Empire of the 1930’s an Indian-Pakistani scholar creates the concept of an ‘Islamic State’. 80 years later his political party takes control on an inner London borough (guess which one?) without ever contesting an election or winning a single vote.


Simply put Jamaat-e-Islami, the group in question, have slowly, steadily and systematically worked their way inside mainstream British political parties, becoming elected as local councillors then eventually gaining control of Tower Hamlets Council by standing – at least in the last local elections – as Tower Hamlets First. Which is a front for Islamic Forum Europe. Which in turn is a front for Jamaat-e-Islami.

Sounds incredible? Maybe. That does not mean it is not true.

Not snappy

This is the second part in our handy guide to Islamic Forum Europe aka Jamaat-e-Islami with the not very snappy title of ‘How fundamental Islamists hijacked the East End of London’.

Who the hell is Jamaat-e-Islami when they are at home?

Further down the page there is a timeline that connects the dots between events in 1930’s British India and Tower Hamlets of 2016. There is a text equivalent of the timeline below that.

Same content, just not as pretty.

For those of you – most we think – who have little interest in the intricacies of Islamist politics and ideologies here is the short version.

The Short(ish) Version

In the 1930’s a scholar / journalist called Abul Ala Maududi strove to popularise the idea of ‘true Islam” as a way of remedying what he saw as fundamental flaws which had developed in Islam over hundreds of years. Core to his ideas were that politics were essential for Islam and that it was necessary to institute sharia law and preserve Islamic culture from what he saw as “the evils of secularism, nationalism, and women’s emancipation.

He founded Jamaat-e-Islami which rapidly became the biggest Islamic organisation in Asia.

After the Second World War and continuing through the 1950s and 1960s there was mass emigration into the UK in an attempt to find enough people for the jobs that needed doing in this country (we tend to forget this fact at times).

In 1962 the Jamaat-e-Islami inspired UK Islamic Mission (UKIM) was founded in the old East London Mosque.

Bangladesh itself was created as a nation state in 1971 out of what had been East Pakistan and the repercussions of the Bangladesh War of Liberation and the genocide perpetrated by Pakistani forces during that time still influence Bangladeshi politics to this day.

Estimates of the numbers killed in this genocide vary between 300,000 to 3,000,000.

On the streets of London’s East End the conflict with Pakistan was replaced by conflict created by the racism of far right fascist groups such as the National Front and British National Party, forerunners of today’s English Defence League (EDL). Same thugs, different times.

TheBangladeshi community groups that organised and mobilised to defend themselves and their communities  from the right wing thugs would in turn provide the ethos and discipline for Islamist groups in later decades.

In 1978 there were two key events.

The first was the murder of Altab Ali during a racist attack in Whitechapel and the second the creation of Dawatul Islam UK by former Jamaat-e-Islami members.

Dawatul Islam UK was created for the very simple reason that Jamaat Islami was on the side of Pakistan during the Bangladesh War of Liberation and this was not – and is not – forgotten by Bangladeshis in the East End.  In 2016 the role of Jamaat Islami in the War of Liberation  is less of an issue for younger Bangladeshi people than contemporary issues such as the ‘war on terror’ or events in Palestine.

In other words Jamaat Islami rebranded itself as Dawatul Islam to appeal to the younger generation.

During the 70s and 80s the influence of Dawatul Islam UK over the East London Mosque (ELM) grew. The sheer size of the ELM was at first out of all proportion to its real influence, but this imbalance changed over time.

In 1988 / 89 there was a major disagreement within Dawatul Islam UK regarding the channeling of funds donated to the ELM and an embezzlement scandal.

The disagreement was of such severity that intermediaries from Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh were flown into London to act as intermediaries.

Their efforts failed and Islamic Forum Europe (IFE) was born to accommodate theDawatul Islam dissenters.

Showing their street smarts from day one IFE took control of the ELM mosque and have remained in control ever since.

In 2010 the Respect Party, Socialist Workers Party and IFE ‘organised’ a referendum on the issue of a directly elected Mayor in Tower Hamlets. Note the absence of anything like Tower Hamlets First.

Despite numerous allegations of electoral fraud (sound familiar?) the referendum was in favour of a directly elected Mayor.

And in 2010 after being kicked out of the Labour party for alleged ‘infiltration’ one Lutfur Rahman was elected as Mayor of Tower Hamlets standing as an Independent candidate. Again there were allegations of a rigged ballot.

One of the first things Mayor Rahman did was to bring the council Youth Services in-house.

This baffled everybody as the existing outsourced Youth Service was by all accounts very well run and very good value for money.

Much more about Youth Services in later posts.

The years 2010 – 2014 saw the cult of personality that was the administration of Lutfur Rahman prosper. Well, he prospered. And his mates prospered. And quite a few of the people who voted for him prospered.

Reality was that if you lived in a part of Tower Hamlets that did not have a strong Rahman voter base then your luck was out. The grants were going elsewhere. 

At the time this was all suspicion. Problem being that no one in authority was doing a damn thing about it.

Until one day four electoral petitioners did what the authorities did not have the courage to do and took Lutfur Rahman to court. And won.

Rahman and his Cabinet Member for Resources Alibor Choudhury were both found guilty of corruption and barred from office. In fact every member of Tower Hamlets First who stood in the election was found guilty of corruption.

Unfortunately due to the huge costs of naming each and every Tower Hamlets First councillor in the electoral petition the 17 corruptly elected councillors escaped punishment and have remained in post. 

Annoying, huh? More so as they are members of Islamic Forum Europe which is in turn a front for Jamaat-e-Islami.

And that is how Jamaat-e-Islami came to Tower Hamlets – and stayed.

So what does Jamaat-e-Islami believe in? What does it want to do in Tower Hamlets?

One thing is not likely to happen is a sudden outbreak of raging jihad along the Commercial Road. It would cause havoc with the traffic for one thing.

It seems that Jamaat-e-Islami [JI] is a very pragmatic middle of the road group which “prioritises peaceful activism”  according to Jason Burke, author of  “The New Threat from Islamic Militancy”. To more fully quote Jason:

“It [JI] sought  religious and cultural renewal through non-violent social activism to mobilise the subcontinent’s Muslims to gain power. This approach involved embracing Western technology and selectively borrowing from Western political ideologies, while rejecting anything seen as inappropriate or immoral.” (Jason Burke, The New Threat from Islamic Militancy, p26).

Which all sounds fine – unless you are a believer in the whole democracy thing. It is safe to assume that Jamaat Islami is not such a believer. Tower Hamlets First certainly are not as has been proved in court.

Next up, inside Islamic Forum Europe / Jamaat Islami with a look at how it organises itself  in Tower Hamlets.


How Jamaat-e-Islami came to Tower Hamlets (and stayed) infographic
How Jamaat-e-Islami came to Tower Hamlets (and stayed) infographic


At the time of its foundation, the Jamaat was less of a political organisation seeking for participation in the government and more a social instrument attempting to alter society along Islamic lines. Why Bangladesh is executing Jamaat-e-Islami leaders. A short history (The Indian Express 2016)

Since the 17th century some Bengali Muslims, known as ‘Laskars’ (from the Arabic word for a guard or soldier, ’al-askar’, and Portugese ‘lascarim’ ) had settled in the East End after coming to London working on ships. By 1855 12,000 Laskars a year visited London and some settled.

A Port of London Authority report mentioning Lascars in February 1931 said that “Although appearing so out of place in the East End, they are well able to look after themselves, being regular seamen who came to the Docks time after time and have learnt a little English and know how to buy what they want.”


1938 Abu Ala Mawdudi, an Indian-Pakistani scholar, creates the concept of ‘political Islam’ in an attempt to propagate “true Islam”. He believed that politics was essential for Islam and that it was necessary to institute sharia and preserve Islamic culture from what he saw as the evils of secularism, nationalism, and women’s emancipation.

Mawdudi creates Jamaat-e-Islami in British India and populises the phrase ‘Islamic Revolution’ in the 1940s, decades before Ayatollah Khomeini becomes synonymous with the term in revolutionary Iran. He was the originator of the contemporary term ‘Islamic state’.


1950s–1970s Main immigration of Bangladeshis to Tower Hamlets, primarily from Sylhet province.


1962 UK Islamic Mission (UKIM) founded in old East London Mosque, Jamaat-e-Islami inspired.


1971 Bangladesh War of Liberation leads to creation of People’s Republic of Bangladesh in what was East Pakistan. New nation and genocide during independence struggle radicalises new groups of people in East End.

1970s Significant increase in fascist National Front inspired racism and attacks on Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets.

1970s East End Bangladeshi community becomes more vocal in its demands for decent housing.

Early 1970s Islamic Youth Movement (IYM) founded in Bradford. Jamaat-e-Islami backed.

1976 London Jami Mosque (Brick Lane) established.

1977 Martial law imposed in Pakistan by Head of State General Muhammed Zia-ul-Haq. His “Islamisation / Sharization” initiative advised by Mawdudi.

1978 Altab Ali murdered during rascist attack in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets.

1978 Dawatul Islam UK created by previous Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan members.

1979 Young Muslim Organisation UK (YMO) founded.

1979- 1989 Soviet – Afghan war

1970s–1980s In response to attacks by neo-Nazi groups appeal of Young Muslim Organisation grows.

1970s–1980s Dawatul Islam influence over East London Mosque increases.

1979–1989 Soviet – Afghan war.


1985 Muslim Aid established.

1985 East London Mosque established.

1985 London Jami Mosque (Brick Lane) declines in influence, seen as too traditional by youth and linked to ‘establishment’.

1988 Satanic Verses controversy.

1989 Fatwah issued by Iran’s Khomeni against Salman Rushdie. Reaction to Satanic Verses creates a network of Islamists across UK. United Kingdom Action In Islamic Affairs (UKACIA) and Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) created, both led by Jamaat-e-Islami personnel.

1988–89 IFE splits from Dawatul Islam caused by provincialism and issues over Saudi money after mediators from Jamaat Islami  Pakistan &Jamaat Islami Bangladesh specifically flown to London to intervene fail to settle the dispute.

1988–89 Islamic Forum Europe created and takes control of East London Mosque. YMO now allied.

Late 1980s Numerous Islamist organisations are active in East End and across UK. Reason for their growth include the failure of secular leaders to meet needs of youth, the establishment of the East London Mosque which provides social activities and Islamist groups providing a way to channel the frustration of Bangladeshi youth.


1990–91 First Gulf War (Kuwait).

1991 British-Bangla youth, now politically aware as a consequence of far-right motivated racial tension, increasingly attracted to Islamist organisations.

1993 September Quddus Ali, 17-year-old Bangladeshi boy, attacked in Shadwell, Tower Hamlets, by eight white men and a white woman. After being in a coma for four months he was left with permanent brain damage. No one is ever convicted of the attack.

1993 September Derek Beackon wins first council seat for the neo-Nazi British National Party when elected councillor in marginal Millwall seat. Loses seat in 1994.

1997 Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) formed.

1998 YMO broker truce between rival street gangs at East London Mosque.

1990s Proliferation of gang culture and drug abuse in East End. Islamist groups have the resources including access to medication to treat addiction.


2001 – 2014 War in Afghanistan.

2002 Lutfur Rahman elected as Tower Hamlets Councillor for Spitalfields & Banglatown.

2003 – 2011 Second Gulf War (Iraq).

2004 East London Mosque built.

2004 Respect Party formed.

2005 July 7/7 London bombings.

2005 George Galloway elected as first Respect MP in Bethnal Green & Bow. Galloway states that the involvement of Islamic Forum Europe had played “the decisive role” in his win during a victory speech.

2006 Lutfur Rahman re-elected as Tower Hamlets Councillor, Respect Party wins 12 seats in Tower Hamlets local elections.


2010 May Referendum on directly elected Mayor in Tower Hamlets organised by Respect Party, Socialist Workers Party and Islamic Forum Europe.

2010 October Lutfur Rahman elected as Mayor standing as Independent after expulsion from Labour Party. Brings council Youth Services in-house.

2014 July During a speech at Mosul’s Great Mosque Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, declares the creation of an Islamic state with himself as its caliph. He quotes Abul A’la Maududi at length.

2014 March BBC Panorama documentary ‘The Mayor and your Money’ exposes Rahman to wider UK audience.

2014 May Lutfur Rahman re-elected as Mayor standing as Tower Hamlets First candidate.

2015 April Electoral petition overturns 2014 Mayoral election result, Rahman banned from office, rerun of election ordered.

2015 May John Biggs, Labour, elected as executive Mayor.

2015 December Synopsis of UK Gov report ‘Muslim Brotherhood Review’ published. Report name checks:

  • Tower Hamlets
  • Lutfur Rahman
  • Islamic Forum Europe
  • East London Mosque
  • Jamaat-e-Islami

For more information

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