Category Archives: Newham Politics

The Easter Jesus v The Islamic Fake

It was the weekend before Holy Week and I was on my way home across Meridian Square outside Stratford station. I was looking forward to the coming festivals: the commemoration of Jesus’ last supper on Maundy Thursday, the solemn reflection on his death on Good Friday and the celebration of his resurrection on Easter Sunday. For a Christian it’s the heart of the Gospel and highlight of the year.

HijackJesuspic2On the Square I was confronted by some Muslim men doing dawa (proselytism) at an Islamic book table. In principle there’s nothing wrong with this as freedom to promote your religion, and indeed your non-religion, is vital to our society.

But, deliberately courting controversy, they were trading upon our Christian festivals by wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with the words, “I love Jesus (peace be upon him) because I’m Muslim!

I was well aware that their “Jesus” is a fake. So I chatted with them briefly, took a picture with their consent and tweeted it with the caption, “@ Stratford #Newham this w/e: #Islam hijacks, demotes & discredits Founder of #Christianity”.

Immediately I was contacted by our local paper, the Newham Recorder. Would I write an article to reflect my views? 250 words; deadline 10.00am on Tuesday.

I did. I wrote:

The True Jesus

“We love the Wife of the Duke of Edinburgh as much as you Brits do,” said an imaginary American in my dream. 

Queen Elizabeth“If that’s so,” I retorted, “you wouldn’t downgrade her. Instead you’d acknowledge her role properly as Her Majesty, Elizabeth ll, Queen of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth.” 

There was a bearded young man outside Stratford station last Saturday. “We Muslims love the prophet Jesus (pbuh) as much as you Christians do,” he declared. 

“If that’s so,” I reflected, “you wouldn’t demote Jesus and insult his self-sacrifice. Instead you’d acknowledge him as he truly is – the Son of God who for our sakes went willingly to his death on a cross on Good Friday 2,000 years ago.” 

Easter this weekend is the highlight of the Christian year, when Jesus’ followers commemorate both his death and resurrection. It’s a wonderful time of significance and celebration. Yet Islamic zealots like the bearded young man are trying to hijack Jesus, diminish his role and spoil the party… 

‘Jesus’ translated into Arabic is ‘Yesua’, but there is no such person mentioned in the Quran. Instead there is an inferior prophet called ‘Isa’ who ranks significantly below Muhammad. Isa wasn’t God’s Son and he didn’t die on a cross, but nonetheless some Muslims insist on misnaming him ‘Jesus’ after the Founder of Christianity. 

It’s simply a ploy or taqqiya (deception) to undermine the real Jesus. 

empty_tomb11However Christians don’t need to mind. It is Easter-time once again; Jesus is Jesus; and in Christ we are free to celebrate his life-giving resurrection from the dead.

 

However the Newham Recorder didn’t publish it!

It’s not the first time the paper has failed to publish my work. A few years ago I wanted to place a campaign advert against the proposed London Olympic mega-mosque at West Ham near my home. At the last moment they pulled the ad because they feared violence.

This time they say that they couldn’t find a Muslim writer to answer my points.

So it’s published here on my blog instead.

Would any Muslim like to respond to the piece and justify Islam’s ‘Jesus’? Avoid vulgarity and personal abuse and I will publish your comments unedited in the appropriate place below.

Giving Thanks

“You say grace, Alan,” someone urged.

I was in a classy restaurant in London’s West End last week with the small celebration wineMegaMosqueNoThanks team and our professional advisers – a lawyer, a town planner, a chartered surveyor, an academic journalist – that together opposed the construction of a huge mosque close to the 2012 London Olympic stadium in East London.

The ‘Selkirk Grace’ of the Scottish poet Robert Burns sprang immediately to mind. My father, a Glaswegian Scot to his fingertips but no church-goer, taught it to us and prayed it himself on semi-formal occasions such as family Christmas lunch:

‘Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.’ 

It’s a grace that was much prayed at Burns Night suppers this week too, no doubt – but I flunked it. Burns’ poetry needs a strong Scots’ inflection and my Sassenach tongue would mangle it. I gave thanks in English.

saying graceWe had a lot to ‘be thankit’ for. As Burns recognised, ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley’; but for us our nine-year campaign against the mosque had not gone ‘agley’. Rather, as regular readers of this blog will know, we’d been given real success as first the local planning authority in December 2012 and then the Secretary of State in October 2015 both rejected the mosque plans.

Tablighi Jamaat, the fundamentalist group behind the mosque proposals, are now in a desperate corner but they have very deep pockets. In December they applied to the High Court for the right to appeal the government’s decision, and no doubt they will if necessary petition the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and even up to the European Court. This likely will go on for years. As I said, they have very deep pockets…

But as we tucked in to our Cauliflower veloute and Goosnargh duck we reckoned we had much to celebrate. We were certain that our campaign had a major impact; for instance Tablighi Jamaat explained on BBC TV that they downsized the project because of our strong opposition.

robinwalesWe also had done our bit to force Newham Council to shift – grudgingly – from 100% support for a mega-mosque to outright opposition. In celebration I had long wanted to raise a glass to Newham’s Labour mayor Sir Robin Wales who huffed and puffed much vitriol towards me personally, but in the end did the necessary U-turn and came to agree with our position on the mosque.

It was at a different table the next day that other colleagues and I had another cause to celebrate. This time the event was held in the House of Lords dining room and we celebrated with very English mid-afternoon cups of tea, cucumber sandwiches, scones, jam and clotted cream. We had just been present at the successful third and final reading of Baroness Caroline Cox’s private member’s bill.

Regular readers of this blog will know that the bill tackles gender discrimination in Sharia councils and the growth of an Islamic parallel legal system in the UK, and also that we have been researching the issue, listening to evidence and promoting the bill for four years. The completion of the bill’s passage through the upper house means that it now goes to the House of Commons, and we were elated that en route it had received strong encouragement and warm support from all quarters in the Lords – apart from the government front bench.

The job is not yet done of course: it will be a very different ball-game in the Commons and further non-cooperation by the government will be a real obstacle. Nonetheless we had reason to celebrate progress so far and afternoon tea seemed appropriate.

dark valleyPolitical activity involves major troughs as well as peaks, dark valleys as well as sunlit mountain-tops, and in my experience it’s unusual for two political wins to coincide and enable celebrations on consecutive days. I was delighted. I was having a good week.

But in If, the English poet Rudyard Kipling famously denotes Triumph and Disaster as “twin imposters”. In Scots Wha Hae,  Robert Burns is indifferent between success and failure: “Welcome to your gory bed, Or to victorie… Let us do or die!” And in the Gospels, Christ asks us, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” 

So at some deep and personal level political successes aren’t – or shouldn’t be – important. But it was pleasurable nonetheless to ignore past frustrations, give thanks for these wins and to celebrate roundly with friends and colleagues.

Mega-Mosque: The End

I was waiting on Dagenham East station one Saturday recently when out of the blue I received a call from Andrew Gilligan of the Sunday Telegraph.DagenhamEast

I had been door-knocking with Peter Harris, the excellent UKIP candidate for Dagenham & Rainham at the general election last May and for the London Assembly in the GLA election in May next year. He had discovered that Barking & Dagenham council were trying quietly to foist a mosque onto greenbelt land in the predominantly White English neighbourhood of Eastbrook, so we had been assessing local opinion with a door-to-door survey.

But Gilligan had good news for me about a different and much bigger mosque, the proposed London mega-mosque at West Ham in Newham close to the 2012 Olympic stadium. Mega-mosqueOriginally this mosque had a futuristic design and a proposed capacity of between 45,000 and 70,000 which would have made it one of the biggest in the world. In the face of our vociferous opposition the mosque capacity was downsized but the mosque architect still claimed the building would be the size of Battersea Power Station with a capacity three times that of St Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve been campaigning against it for nearly a decade.

At first on my own but in due course backed by a superb small team, I had spent months studying, analysing and understanding Tablighi Jamaat – the fundamentalist and isolationist group behind the project. As our opposition campaign took off I encountered vicious verbal hostility and a death threat, and had a website set up against me personally; our combative team produced the MegaMosqueNoThanks campaign website, video channel and Facebook page and participated in two huge Public Inquiries; we delivered at least one campaign leaflet to each of the 97,000 homes of Newham’s 300,000 residents, and four or five leaflets to each home in the West Ham neighbourhood;  2000px-Seal_of_the_Ronald_Reagan_Presidential_Library.svgI was flattered to receive a ‘Hero of Conscience’ award for our efforts at a glittering American Freedom Association event in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California; I undertook public debates in Newham and at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, and engaged in informal discussions in cafes and on the street with mosque supporters many of whom live near my home in Muslim-majority Forest Gate; and I was interviewed by journalists and on TV and radio from around the world as well as in our national media.

crossculturalHandshakeIt has been an extraordinary journey during which I have come to like and respect the overwhelming majority of Muslim people I have engaged with, but also to loathe the dark fundamentalist Islam that is rising across the world from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East to the UK and Europe, from Pakistan in South Asia to Nigeria in West Africa. And recently in Paris too.

But the journey was coming to an end. “The mega-mosque isn’t going to happen,” Gilligan told me. “Reliable sources say that the DCLG (the Department of Communities and Local Government) will announce soon that the trustees’ appeals have failed. The mega-mosque isn’t going to be built. My exclusive on this will be in tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph,” he continued, “and I need a quote from you.”

My joy was great and relief was deep.  I could hardly believe my ears. Gilligan swore me to silence until his exclusive was published the following day, but that didn’t matter. This massive platform for promoting fundamentalist Islam globally which also would have had a disastrous effect on social integration locally, was over, sunk, dead. My colleagues and I could relax, be grateful and celebrate. Our job was done.

Gilligan’s story was published and four days later the formal decision of the Secretary of State at the DCLG, Greg Clark, was published too. To our amazement he took a firmer line against the mosque project than the Planning Inspector recommended;Bulldozer not only is the mega-mosque not to be built, but within three months the mosque trustees must cease using the site and must demolish the 2,000-capacity wood-frame buildings they are using there as a temporary mosque.

Technically the trustees still have the right to challenge the Government decision. However, due to new and tighter regulations that came into force just two days before the decision was announced – the Government was astute in its timing – they have first to apply to the High Court for permission to make the challenge before submitting the challenge itself, and they have to do so by 9th December. Also the challenge can be only on technical points of law and not about the decision itself. This is a huge mountain to climb for the trustees and if they have any sense they will not waste their time and money.

Meanwhile I now find myself involved with UKIP in the much smaller mosque project close to Dagenham East station where I took the call from Andrew Gilligan. Here, as in Newham, the authorities have been secretive and ignored local opinion until we forced the issue into the open: Peter Harris contacted and briefed the Dagenham media; we undertook a door-to-door survey where we found 93% of locals were against the mosque for reasons ranging from “too much traffic already” and “save our greenbelt” to “no Muslims live here so no need for a mosque”; Eastbrookmeetingand ten days ago we held a residents’ meeting in a pub and invited UKIP heavyweights Peter Whittle – our London mayoral candidate – and Roger Gravett. The pub was packed. You can read about it here and here.

Inevitably, as in Newham, Labour’s borough leadership in Barking & Dagenham has been incensed by our actions.

So deja vue. Here we go again…

My Journey Into UKIP

Out of the blue, less than 24 hours before nominations closed on 9th April, I received a call from UKIP London Region chairman asking me if I would be a candidate for the party in the General Election. He wanted me to stand in the Brent North constituency where the intended candidate apparently had gone AWOL.

Immediately I consented. Then, working with local activists, we managed to submit the required papers, signatures and deposit with just two hours to spare.

ukipIt was an unexpected and personally significant turn of events, so I thought I should email an explanation about my UKIP journey to people close to me. This, then, is what I wrote to them back on 11th April; the UKIP hierarchy requested that I shouldn’t publish it on my blog until today when the General Election campaign is over:

Dear family, friends and colleagues,

In October I joined UKIP, which surprised many, horrified some and delighted others.

Further, over the past month I have been campaigning at weekends for UKIP’s excellent candidate in the party’s most winnable London seat, Dagenham & Rainham. Then this week UKIP suddenly asked me to stand as their paper (that is, nominal or non-campaigning) candidate in the unwinnable Brent North constituency – which I readily accepted.

When I lost my seat on Newham Council in 2010 after eight satisfying years as Christian Peoples Alliance councillor, I decided that my period of electoral politics was over. I’d had my time and I’d done my bit. So I am, perhaps, as surprised as anyone to find myself back in the fray ahead of the general election on 7 May, this time on behalf of a different party.

I thought I’d try to explain why to those who know me and may be puzzled by my recent political conversion to UKIP. If however you are simply not interested or find it boring, please be free to ignore and delete this email.

the crossWhen I became a Christian in my late 20s, my worldview changed dramatically. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the corporate success, high income and jet-set lifestyle that I enjoyed then, I realised immediately that the Christian God rejects egotism, arrogance, selfishness and untruth: Christ showed us that His compassion is for the weak, the voiceless, the marginalised, the deprived, the disabled and the despised.

As a result and following my faith, I left the prosperity of leafy Highgate in north London and moved to inner-city Canning Town in London’s east end, then the most deprived neighbourhood in the country according to the London Research Council. There I founded and became live-in warden of an after-care home for young offenders following their release from prison, and I ended up running a local church and community centre for the disadvantaged docklands population.

My heart was primarily with the outsider and the underdog, so when in 2001 and without consultation Newham Council highhandedly and Mugabe-like announced a brutal housing clearance scheme across Canning Town (“social cleansing” the appalled locals termed it) I moved into action. I door-knocked, leafletted and held mass meetings. I was then elected onto Newham Council as the sole Opposition member facing 59 Labour councillors and a Labour executive Mayor. I was the first non-Labour councillor in Canning Town for nearly a century and this small local earthquake helped kick-start my short political career…

The union of one man and one woman in marriage, faithful to each another “for the procreation of children” and “till death us do part”, is an almost uniquely Christian ordinance. Like Christianity itself, this monogamous ideal has for more than a millennium so influenced our society, culture and language that we hardly notice it; for instance it is a bit of a shaker to consider that if I had been born in, say, traditionalist Africa or Muslim Middle East, my beloved Sally could be merely the first of my three or four wives without anyone batting an eyelid or me breaking the law.

wedding handsThe social benefits of Christian-style faithful marriage have been so great, especially for the nurture and socialisation of the nation’s children, that I put the promotion of the marriage-based family via tax breaks and other incentives at the top of my agenda. For instance when I ran for Mayor of London against Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone in 2008, my prime election pledge was to “Promote marriage and stable family as a long-term solution to youth crime, educational underachievement and child poverty”.

I was stunned therefore when in 2011, without prior notice or indeed, initially, the support of gay campaigning groups like Stonewall, David Cameron commenced his crusade for same-sex marriage and, consequently, the debasing and degrading of traditional marriage. Under the government’s gay marriage legislation, loyalty and faithfulness were negated as a key defining characteristic of marriage (“Go on, be modern, play the field, everyone does”) and, necessarily, so was procreation and the nurture of the marital union’s offspring.

Yet same-sex marriage was not in any of the main parties’ manifestos at the previous general election; there was no Green or White Paper consultation over the issue; debate in Parliament was severely restricted and one-sided; opponents were excoriated as stone-age dinosaurs or homophobes – in this way the whole metropolitan liberal political bubble (led unitedly and enthusiastically by David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Boris Johnson) highhandedly rammed through the destruction of this foundational building-block of a healthy society. They betrayed our children and it’s the coming generations who will suffer the consequences.

For me it was the last straw. It was shades of highhanded Newham Council again, but at the national level. Until this betrayal I still had – just – some residual respect for our political elite and our existing party system. But no more. Their cavalier and flagrant abuse of the political process over this vital social issue was, for me, jaw-dropping. They shoved it down our throats, and it made me sick.

But not UKIP.

UKIP is an unsophisticated grass-roots party of mainly ordinary people, warts and all. The leaders make mistakes but deal swiftly with the jesters and worse that any new party attracts.

The leadership has common sense and very real courage: alone they stood against gay marriage; alone they want the UK to exit the corrupt and undemocratic EU; alone they campaign to end to the madness of uncontrolled mass immigration; alone they plan to protect childhood innocence by banning sex education from primary school pre-pubescents.

I don’t agree with some of UKIP’s stuff, but as despised outsiders and in spite of virulent opposition the party has single-handedly shifted the political agenda on both the EU and mass immigration. The party is currently doing the same over health tourism and wages depressed by cheap labour. Yet encouragingly a significant percentage of supporters come from ethnic minorities who too, of course, are outsiders.

So I’ve joined UKIP and am campaigning and nominally standing for the party on 7 May. I want our society to regain its identity and confidence, to come out of the cosy but crumbling rich men’s club that is the EU and to engage independently with the wider world (including Europe) so that we stand or fall by our wits.

friends-fingersI don’t expect all my friends to agree with me (that’s not what friends are for!) or to support UKIP. But it is important to me that you understand why I am actively campaigning for them.

If you want to know more about the moral fury that has driven me into UKIP, I urge you to read my post “Matthew Parris’ Poison” (especially the second half) at www.alansangle.com/?p=1531.

Also if you have any comments, favourable or otherwise, be free to email me. I’d love to hear from you.

Very warmly,

Alan

Muddassar’s Dirty Tricks At The Mega-Mosque Inquiry

MMNTdesign“You’re the bloke I’ve seen on the internet – you’re opposing the big Tablighi Jamaat mosque,” said the bearded man as I was about to climb the stairs at Custom House station adjacent to the massive ExCel Centre in Docklands. I was on my way to this month’s Public Inquiry (here) into plans to build a 9,000 capacity mosque, and my new companion – aged perhaps 40 – fell in beside me as we climbed the steps together.

“I’ve watched your videos and you’re right you know,” he continued. “I wish others would stand up against them like you do. I’m a Muslim and I know what they’re like. I don’t go near Tablighi Jamaat mosques.”

His name, he told me, is Ali. He came to the UK from Jamaica when he was nine and had accepted Islam. “Keep strong,” was his parting encouragement as he descended onto the station platform and I continued into ExCel. “I hope you are successful.”

MMNT logoIslamic opposition to the proposed massive mosque at West Ham – the architect claims it will be a big as Battersea Power Station (here) – is nothing new. I’ve lived less than two miles from the site for over 30 years and during our 8-year campaign of opposition (here) I’ve frequently worked with and cited prominent Muslims who oppose the project (eg here).

One of the most impressive Muslim opponents has been Tehmina Kazi, director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD – here). Able, articulate and progressive, she had been a Project Officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (here) and, through BMSD, is now committed to promoting an Islam that is about ‘social inclusion, co-existence and harmony’ and does not discriminate against women.

On our behalf she testified strongly against the mosque in a formal submission to a previous Public Inquiry in February 2011 (here) on the grounds of Tablighi Jamaat’s isolationism and the restricted role of Tablighi women, both of which are “not conducive to social cohesion and inclusion”. She made a similar formal submission to the present Inquiry two weeks before it opened on 3rd June. It was powerful courageous stuff and right on the button; she was our star opposition witness.

Newham-Peoples-AlliancePublic Inquiries are run by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate and, 10 minutes after close of business on the day before this Inquiry opened, the Planning Inspector’s office in Bristol received an email from cowboy mosque-supporters Newham Peoples Alliance (here) informing him that our witness Tehmina Kazi had withdrawn from the Inquiry.

NPA is the dubious Muslim-led outfit that last year held demos outside Newham town hall in favour of the mega-mosque and then invited George Galloway to Newham to lead the campaign for the mega-mosque during the 2014 local elections (here), (here) and (here). Despite the usual Galloway flatulence, the initiative fizzled out.

NPA, which is driven now by internationally-connected Muddassar Ahmed, the founding CEO of Unitas Communications, by his Chief Operating Officer, Shiraz Ahmad, and by his Chief Media Officer, Zahid Amanullah (all here), had formal representation at the Inquiry, and indeed Shiraz Ahmad was one of NPA’s spokesmen.

Muddassar Ahmed(Unitas Communications claims to be a “specialist public relations and reputation management agency” with offices in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as well as London and Washington; it specialises in “the communications interface between the Islamic and Western worlds” (here) and is well-connected at senior government levels in those countries. For instance in the UK Muddassar is known to be close to fellow religionist Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Minister of State for Faith & Communities in Eric Pickles’ Department (here); ominously Pickles and his colleagues will be deciding the final fate of the mega-mosque later this year.)

While Tehmina’s withdrawal was a disappointment it was not a complete surprise. The previous Saturday afternoon she had called me, deeply distressed, from her holiday break abroad to tell me that Muddassar Ahmed was pressurising her (“intimidating” was her exact word) to withdraw. She said that Muddassar claimed he had obtained reassurances from Tablighi Jamaat that they would treat women better in future, and he promised Tehmina “they will continue to become more liberal under his influence.”

The reassurances, if made, are risible. Tablighi Jamaat, which has 80 million followers across 150 countries, has been promoting its ideologically-driven misogyny (here) and (here) to all its followers everywhere since its foundation in 1920s India.

But Tehmina was desperate. “Muddassar is not som1 u want as an enemy – he is 2 well connected in the community,” she texted me in messages that are still on my phone. “Really sorry Muddassar has put you under such pressure and intimidation,” I replied, to which she texted “I’m still shocked that hes supporting them as his wife N***** P***** (my asterisks) is a feminist.”

“It (Muddassar’s intervention) has ruined my break,” she texted further. “It’s always left to me to stick my head above the parapet – I wish others would do so 4 a change,” she added.

problem solvedI felt and feel sorry for Tehmina. Intimidation and interfering with witnesses is a dirty business; it not only indicates the depths to which Muddassar Ahmed will sink, it also illustrates the dark manoeuvring and coercion associated with Tablighi Jamaat and their mosque project. Six years ago my family and I received a death threat from another Tablighi Jamaat supporter linked to the project (here) so I know what mega-mosque intimidation is like.

Regrettably but understandably Tehmina has since denied she was intimidated and told the media that she has been “neither harried nor pressured but had accepted the reassurances she had been given about the place of women in the mega-mosque community” (here). The sneery knee-jerk Left such as IslamophobiaWatch (here), Liberal Conspiracy (here) and @NafeezAhmed were delighted of course. But fear has worked its effect, and her denial – subsequently repeated – is testimony to Muddassar Ahmed’s bullying control.

EricPicklesLord help us if the Planning Inspector recommends, and Eric Pickles decides, to allow the mega-mosque project go ahead. We can expect more, many more, such dirty tricks.

I can understand why my new friend Ali stays away from Tablighi Jamaat mosques.

Saint Ten-Foot

I’ve just finished Damien McBride’s controversial page-turner Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin (here), the launch of which put the cat among the Labour Party pigeons at their annual conference last month (here). McBride was Gordon Brown’s special adviser, attack dog, spin doctor and dirty tricks operator who was forced to resign from the Downing Street staff in 2009 in a scandal over plans to smear Tory MPs by leaked “lying-without-lying” stories about their private lives (here). As a proponent of political dark arts McBride is down there with Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson.

DamienMcBridesbookThe book is fascinating and foul in equal measure. Fascinating because McBride entertainingly lifts the lid on the state of politics today with humour, a good turn of phrase, telling anecdotes and buckets of self-deprecation. Foul because of the stench that arises from the decaying body politic that McBride exposes under the lid.

There are popular book reviews from varying standpoints, eg (here) and (here), and it’s not my purpose to add to them. Rather I was interested in McBride’s fulsome praise for one of our local Labour MPs, Stephen Timms, the member for East Ham and Financial Secretary to the Treasury under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. According to McBride, insiders call Timms ‘Ten-Foot’ because of his “legendary height”; he is 6’ 3½” tall (here).

Much more significant is McBride’s view that Timms is “the nicest and most morally upstanding MP and minister I’ve ever met” and that, despite all the in-your-face temptations of power, politics and a public profile, Timms remained “utterly grounded, moral and principled”.

The only other person in the book that McBride similarly eulogises is his boss, Gordon Brown, who he loyally cloaks in words like “greatness” and “genius”. But you can be an evil genius, and McBride’s book itself provides little to persuade us that Brown has the personal ‘moral compass’ that he famously claimed for himself.

But Timms does. Not only is he “morally upstanding” and “moral and principled” according to McBride, but he was also amongst the small group of MP’s who the Daily Telegraph categorised as ‘saints’ at the time of the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal (here).

Stephen-Timms MPI don’t know Stephen Timms well, but my limited experience of him confirms his integrity and his refusal to play the crude political games of his colleagues:

From 2002 to 2006 I was the sole opposition councillor – for the Christian Peoples Alliance party – on Newham Council, facing 59 Labour councillors and a Labour executive mayor. With relish I undertook my democratic duty of opposing some of the more crass decisions of the mayor and his colleagues, who were universally hostile to me for my pains. As a result at civic, council and other functions almost all Labour councillors would, amusingly, fulfil their party’s tribal demands and blank me.

But not so Stephen Timms. He would acknowledge me and usually stand with me publicly for a passing chat. It must have been unnerving for loyalist Labour councillors to see their Labour MP demean himself – as they would view it – by engaging very visibly with the loathed opposition councillor.

So why does Timms stand out from his party colleagues as “morally upstanding” and “moral and principled”? Is it his family backgound? Is it his grammar school and Cambridge University education? Only Stephen Timms himself can truly know.

But I’ll hazard a guess and it is Timms’ Wikipedia entry that blows the gaff (here).

He’s an evangelical Christian.

Gay Marriage? Thank God For Stephen Timms

Stephen_TimmsI have no inside knowledge of course, but I always thought that our two Newham Labour MPs, Stephen Timms (East Ham) and Lyn Brown (West Ham) were good friends. Maybe they still are, but it was with some amusement that I read about their spat over same-sex marriage in the House of Commons.

In his speech during a debate on the same-sex marriage Bill in early February, Stephen claimed rightly that “Children are at the heart of marriage… Children are the reason why marriage has been so important…”

Lyn Brown's weddingLyn Brown interrupted him in full flow to remind him that he attended her marriage ceremony (in May 2008). “My right hon. Friend was at my wedding. I was not young when I got married (she was 48) and… it was highly unlikely that I was going to be able to procreate after all that time. Is he telling me that my marriage is less valid than anybody else’s?” (here)

It was a petty point. It is true that some married couples are not able to – or indeed choose not to – have children. It is true also that gay couples can have children even if only by adoption or artificial means.

But it is true too that there are exceptions to every rule. And these specific exceptions do not undermine the fact that real marriage is in essence and in principle about two people coming together, committing exclusively to each other, creating children and providing a stable caring home for the nurture and healthy upbringing of the next generation. It is because marriage is important for the welfare of children and for the future of society that an apparently secular state like ours must take an interest in the defining, ordering and regulation of marriage.

wheat fieldConversely if children and the future are not an essential part of marriage, then neither is the state. And if now marriage is simply to be about adults (gay or straight) loving and choosing each other as they wish, the state logically and inevitably must back off and allow any consenting adults of any gender and any number the right to marry for as long or short as they choose. For instance a wacky middle-aged couple I know went alone into a field of wheat one sunny summer’s day, frolicked naked and hidden amongst the ripening stalks and when they emerged from the field told friends that they are now ‘married’. This is a recipe for nuptial anarchy and instability of course, but on what basis do we tell them that they are not married?

Lyn Brown is my MP so I thought I’d try to persuade her change her mind ahead of tomorrow’s final Commons vote on same-sex marriage. The local paper, the Newham Recorder, published this letter from me last Wednesday:

Dear Editor, 

The final House of Commons vote on the Same-Sex Marriage Bill will take place later this month, before it then goes on to the House of Lords. Local MP Stephen Timms abstained in the previous vote and has said he will vote against the Bill next time. Can I appeal to my own MP, Lyn Brown, to follow suit? 

“Two people who love each other and are committed to each other should be allowed to get married whatever their gender. It’s an equality and human rights issue.” This is the main argument advanced in favour of same-sex marriage. 

But it is a selective and specious argument, and in reality the Bill does not create ‘equal marriage’ at all. Rather by changing the time-honoured definition of marriage from that between one man and one woman, it creates new inequalities and discrimination.

 It is notable for instance that the Bill will allow two lesbians to marry but not two elderly spinster sisters. Like the lesbians, the sisters may love each other, be committed to each other and live together for many years, but the legislation does not follow its own logic, allow them equally to get married. 

And if the Bill is about equality for minorities, why are the polygamous marriages of Muslims and Mormons excluded from it? And what about polyandrous marriages where there is one woman and two or more men? 

Further, there is an increasingly vocal minority demand for group marriage with multiple men and multiple women living in one so-called ‘family’. On what grounds are these minority ‘families’ excluded and discriminated against by the legislation? 

marriage based familySo the Bill is confused, illogical, irrational, unequal and creates new exclusions and discrimination against minorities. But worse, it completely ignores children. Same-sex marriage is about the interests of gay adults; children are not even mentioned in the legislation. Our children are our future, yet their rights and their welfare in marriages are completely blanked. 

Also, same-sex marriage will undermine normal faithful marriage by downgrading marital loyalty, as adultery will no longer be a valid reason for divorce. The right to play the field with even temporary and multiple sex partners is included by the government in this new definition of ‘marriage’. 

Finally, there is little demand for same-sex marriage in the gay community and there is no democratic mandate from the wider community. It was not included in any of the manifestos of the three major parties in parliament at the last election. 

Stephen Timms is showing courageous leadership by voting to reject the Bill. Lyn Brown, can we ask you to follow him and do likewise? 

Yours sincerely, etc 

The gay online newspaper Pink News ran the letter under the (deliberately?) untruthful headline claim that I want polygamous marriages to be included in the Bill (here).

I received a hostile email response from ‘AgayBgay’ informing me that “religion is a lie” and that there will be “punishment and justice” for gay rights violators. He also notified me ominously, “You have been warned.”

innocent childHe claimed further that “homosexual people are born homosexual” – which of course is the scientifically unproven and anecdotally questionable ‘born-gay’ argument. Matthew Parris (here – £) and Peter Tatchell (here) – both gays – would disagree. No gay gene has been discovered and rather than gayness being pre-determined at birth, it seems much more likely that childhood experiences and free-will play the major part.

MPs vote on the same-sex marriage Bill tomorrow. Will Lyn Brown vote against it alongside her Newham colleague?

Thank God for Stephen Timms.

So Tablighi Jamaat Doesn’t Do Politics?

Barbara MetcalfIt is an untruth universally acknowledged amongst western liberal academics like South Asia specialist Professor Barbara Metcalf that Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), the subcontinent-based but global Islamist group behind the West Ham mega-mosque project, doesn’t do politics. ‘A-political’, ‘detached’ and ‘quietist’ is how she describes them, and she also likes to equate them with the inoffensive and commendable self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous (here).

Duh! Is such blindness and blandness wilful? It is certainly influential. So the question must be asked: What is Ms Metcalf”s agenda? Or, worse, who funds her professorial chair and skews her analysis?

Mind you, I have to concede that TJ’s statement about the 300-strong protest outside Newham Town Hall two weeks ago (here) by the recently-formed Newham People’s Alliance (NPA) seems – on the surface – to support Professor Metcalf’s thesis.

NPA demoNPA, which calls itself a non-partisan multi-faith, multi-party pressure group, held the demo to protest against Newham Council’s current High Court action to remove TJ from their West Ham site (here). This action has been parallel to but separate from the Council’s recent rejection of TJ’s planning application for a 9,500 capacity mega-mosque on the site (here).

NPA is not as diverse and inclusive as it claims. It is overwhelmingly Muslim in membership, holds its meetings inside mosques, distributes its leaflets outside mosques and uses Islamic words like mashwera in its notices (here). Significantly it also has links with the inimitable George Galloway MP (here) who, attired entirely in black, graced Newham with his presence after Christmas and, in a master-stroke of opportunism, relaunched the Newham branch of his Respect party on the back of Muslim anger over the rejection of the mega-mosque planning application (here).

George Galloway(Just this week Galloway and NPA came together at a meeting to launch what they call a ‘Newham Spring’ revolution to sweep Sir Robin Wales, Newham’s autocratic Labour mayor, from power like a Tunisian or Egyptian president (here). Of course in fact Galloway and his friends could only trigger a Newham Winter and dump us out of the Labour frying pan into the combustible fire-ice of east London Muslim politics. But at the launch event hundreds turned up to hear him speak (here). Watch this space.)

So NPA held the Town Hall demo in support of the mega-mosque – but the mega-mosque trustees objected to it strongly. They issued a public statement condemning NPA for calling the protest and for using the mega-mosque rejection for political benefit. “This is a planning issue which these people are trying to hijack for their political gain,” complained the trustees. In other words, “TJ are peaceful. We do mosque planning not street politics.” Professor Metcalf would applaud.

But their statement was itself merely a political PR manoeuvre designed to persuade Newham Council that they want to work cooperatively in order to submit a revised planning application as soon as possible and convince them that political pressure through street demos is not the TJ way. This of course is nonsense:

planning committee demoThe Council planning committee met to review the original planning application just over two months ago. A week before the meeting, controversial cleric Sheikh Haitham al- Haddad (here) issued a call on behalf of “the brothers who are in charge of the markaz” (the TJ trustees) for 15,000 supporters to demonstrate outside the town hall on 5th December in order to put pressure on the committee members meeting inside (here). In the event 3,000 turned up, and when I approached the demonstrators – who were peaceful and friendly – I was formally introduced to TJ trustees who were there approving and participating.

TJ uses various techniques to pressurise and persuade. Last October when our campaign against the mega-mosque planning application was gaining traction and likely to be successful (here)  I received an email from a Dr Sohail Hameed, Chairman of Hainault & Chigwell Muslim Association, threatening me with legal action because I was “spreading violence and stirring racism” and “hurting feelings of billions of Muslims living worldwide”. He wrote, “I like to give you formal NOTICE to stop negative and baseless without any evidence propaganda against Muslims and Islam and Holy Quran. It is illegal because you are spreading racism.”

I emailed Dr Hameed that I was not spreading racism, that I stand firmly against any form of racism, and that I would be happy to meet with him to discuss his allegations.

In reply he dropped his claims of racism to accuse me instead of illegal “spreading religious hatred”. He refused to meet because he was “very busy with our planning application”. He said he would see me in court…

TJ uses other methods too including electioneering. In April 2010 when I was campaigning for re-election as a Newham councillor and also campaigning hard against the mega-mosque, a local Pakistani Muslim convert to Christianity I know received a knock on the door. He immediately recognised his visitors as TJ followers and they, thinking he was Muslim, gave him an election flyer. Entitled “Alan Craig is an enemy of Islam”, the flyer quoted dramatically out of context some “very untrue, bad and offensive things” I have written about Islam’s Prophet on this blog (here). The flyer urged electors to vote Labour “as they have the best chance of getting rid of Alan Craig as Councillor”.

No doubt the flyer persuaded some of my Muslim supporters against me and reduced my total votes. But thankfully it didn’t decide the election outcome which was driven by other factors.

obituaryAlso, in November 2007, just over a year after our campaign against the mega-mosque started, a TJ supporter called Muhammad Abdullah, whose YouTube channel was linked publicly to the mega-mosque’s website, posted a video entitled ‘In Memory of Councillor Alan Craig’. This featured not only myself but my wife and two young daughters. Police arrested Abdullah, YouTube took down the video, and the incident received headlines in the press (here). I said it was either a sick joke or worse (here). Some reckoned it was definitely the latter (here). Either way, it was hostile and threatening. TJ was forced by the outcry to terminate the link and disassociate itself from the video.

So when Professor Metcalf claims that TJ is non-political, quietist and comparable to Alcoholics Anonymous, she is away with the fairies and maligning an admirable organisation that supports compulsive drinkers. It has to be asked again: What is Ms Metcalf’s agenda? Who funds her work?

Unnecessary Clumps Of Flesh?

I’ve blogged before about the BPAS abortion centre that opened in Stratford, east London, last year (here) and (here). Now successive vigils by various pro-life groups have provoked a backlash. Fifty pro-abortionists demonstrated outside the centre to condemn what they claim is the “harassment and intimidation of its staff and women seeking advice.” (here).

However their spokeswoman was forced to admit that the pro-life groups have in fact been peaceful, “but we have to be present to stop them getting worse”. So with the evidence against her she flatulently puffed up the story and one-sidedly raised the demo stakes. But she was tilting at windmills.

More regrettable however was the enthusiastic support of three GPs from next-door Tower Hamlets representing that borough’s branch of the British Medical Association and led by one Dr Anna Livingstone. It’s depressing to see society’s salaried life-preservers actively promoting life-destruction. It is a contradiction and an hypocrisy. Whatever happened to the Hippocratic oath?

The Newham Recorder decided to start a debate about the vigils and the BPAS centre, and asked me to contribute a 300 word article. It was a golden opportunity to highlight locally the heartless commercialism of the abortion companies – sisters to the tobacco companies – and the mass-murder of our unborn children, so I published this piece:

A friend called one of the big two private abortion providers to ask about a termination. The first question they asked was for her post code. The second was for her credit card details. 

The abortion companies weep crocodile tears of sympathy for women in a pregnancy crisis but, like tobacco companies, their real interest is in increasing their cash flow and market share. 

So they offer no proper pre-abortion counselling to their vulnerable but valuable clients as this would take time, cost money and lose them business. And they protest loudly against those who insist that women in crisis should be given the space and support required to make a properly informed choice between the different alternatives available – for her unborn baby, for her family, for herself and for their future together. 

Nationally, London has become the abortion capital of Europe and Britain terminates the equivalent of a full primary school of unborn children every single day. It is far worse than a cull; it is a holocaust. We have wiped out almost the entire population of greater London – over 7 million abortions – in less than fifty years. 

We worry about our aging population yet we kill off our kids. Where is the logic let alone the compassion? 

So I welcome the rise in peaceful vigils – and only peaceful vigils – outside abortion centres like BPAS in Stratford. I have taken part in them there myself. 

Some, like Abort67, silently display pictures of aborted babies’ bloodied body-parts which, like the graphic images of throat cancer on cigarette packets, are intended to show clients and passers-by the shocking human cost of abortion and to urge a different way. 

Others like Helpers of God’s Precious Infants and 40 Days For Life quietly stand at a distance and simply pray against the tragedy of abortion. 

May God answer their prayers soon. 

The equivalent pro-abortion article by Dr Anna Livingstone can be seen in full (here).

It is notable that both articles – from very different perspectives – highlight the wellbeing and interests of the woman, but of course only mine was in a position to promote the welfare of the baby. To pro-abortionists, he or she (the gender of a pre-born is identifiable from 7 weeks) is airbrushed out as an unmentionable unperson of no moral worth, “a cluster of cells… an unnecessary and insentient clump of flesh” (here), and is only there to be terminated by surgical assault from today’s equivalent of Victorian knitting needles and poisons.

I’d hate it if one of the demonstrating doctors had been our family GP when my wife was pregnant with our children. They were never unnecessary clumps of flesh.

Mega-Mosque: TJ Take The Gloves Off!

The mega-mosque is back, and it’s metamorphosed into a mosque the size of Battersea Power Station. 

Of course it never went away. Misinformed headlines like the BBC’s “Plans collapse for the biggest mosque in England” (here) and the inevitable public silence following Tablighi Jamaat’s (TJ’s) successful appeal last year against Newham Council’s attempt to move them off the site (here), lulled many into a false sense of security.

But they’re back now, and they’ve taken their gloves off. Earlier this month they officially submitted their plans to inflict on the residents of West Ham a 9,350-capacity mosque which their architect trumpeted would be the size of Battersea Power Station (here).

You’ve got to admire their chutzpah – or their Saudi-backed arrogance depending on your point of view. Last February they publicised plans for the site that seemed roughly in line with Newham’s core planning strategy for the borough which requires a mixed-use development on this key location – it’s beside the busy West Ham interchange station. TJ said then that they intended to build separate residential, retail and business units in addition to the mosque. It would of course have been the UK’s first custom-built Sharia-controlled zone, but nonetheless it might have satisfied the mixed-use criteria of the Council.

But in reality they’ve always had the ambition for a mono-use mosque-only site, as this is to be an important global platform for the fundamentalist movement with its 80 million followers worldwide and a huge Islamic statement to the rest of us. So now they’ve done a U-turn, thrown caution to the wind, taken the gloves off and decided to go for broke.  They’ve dropped February’s plans for the mixed-use ancillary units and replaced them by a 2,000 capacity dining hall for worshippers, an Islamic library, eight flats for Imams and overnight mosque visitors, children’s facilities – and, to pacify the planners, some sports fields ‘for the wider community’… Anyone for a game of mixed doubles?

So TJ is deliberately waving two fingers at Newham Council whose local planning strategy cramps their burgeoning global ambitions. And they’re not giving a toss either for the West Ham residents who would have to live with both the growing number of disciples of TJ’s socially-hostile ideology who will come to live locally and the architecturally deficient mega-mosque (someone astutely called it “the love-child of Stansted airport and a failed social housing development”).

TJ clearly expects – even intends – that their planning application will fall at the first hurdle of Newham Council’s planning committee. But with a ‘stuff you Newham!’ they doubtless expect to succeed when appealing over Newham’s head to the national Planning Inspectorate. And, with the Planning Inspector’s pusillanimous track record at the previous appeal and George Osborne’s current more liberal ‘boost the economy’ planning environment (here) and (here), who can blame them?

Fortunately, life – and a planning application – has its inevitable twists and turns and straight-line strategies rarely work. Besides, despite the best efforts of our self-serving political and professional elite, we still live in a democracy where the ordinary punter, in West Ham as elsewhere, hasn’t yet been fully shut out and shut up.

So there’s lots to play for and our MegaMosqueNoThanks campaign team of committed volunteers (here) doesn’t intend to be silent or inactive. TJ is large, well-funded and ambitious but so too was Goliath. And David, with a confidence outside himself, triumphed over Goliath with just a sling and a well-aimed stone.

Meanwhile we’ve alerted local people by placing this half-page advert in last Wednesday’s Newham Recorder: