Board was on verge of backing
THE BOARD of Deputies was on the verge of backing a proposed working definition of Islamophobia devised by a parliamentary group described as “decisively influenced” by the controversial Muslim advocacy group Mend.
A JC investigation can reveal that Board staff attended a series of meetings with leading advocates of the definition — including Baroness Warsi, Labour’s Wes Streeting, and Muhbeen Hussain, a leading campaigner from Rotherham who once called for his local community to boycott the police for their “Islamophobic” behaviour during the town’s childgrooming scandal.
Following the meetings, the Board was ready to back the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims’ working definition of anti-Muslim hatred, which was unveiled at a highprofile Westminster launch last month.
A letter sent to
Prime Minister Theresa May on December 1, purportedly from Muslim organisations across the UK from a broad range of backgrounds, called on the Conservative Party to adopt the working definition. It included the signatures of the pro-Hamas and anti-Zionist Friends of al-Aqsa group alongside Islamic Relief, the charity outlawed by Israel over disputed claims that it has in the past channelled funds to terror groups.
It can also be revealed that one of the academics responsible for writing the proposed definition of Islamophobia, Professor Salman Sayyid, heads the research section of the Islamic Human Rights Commission — the group which organises the notorious Al Quds Day marches in London, at which the flag of the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah is openly flown and where, in 2017, the parade leader blamed ‘Zionists’ for the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy. The 71-page report, published alongside the working definition last month to show evidence in support of its findings, offers “particular thanks” in the acknowledgements to Dr Antonio Perra, the senior policy analyst at Mend until last July. He is praised for his “considerable support to the secretariat in the preparation of this report” which “has been immensely valuable”. Mr Perra is the only nonMP thanked.
Asim Qureshi, Research Director at Cage — who once referred to Islamic State terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, as a “beautiful man” and whose website once described the 9/11 terror attacks as an insurance scam organised by a Zionist billionaire — also submitted evidence included in the report. Mend, which submitted evidence, has long been mired in controversy. Last year, a senior Mend representative asserted that Muslims in the UK face a situation analogous to that of Jews in Nazi Germany before the Holocaust.
The group’s former director of engagement, Azad Ali, is reported to have said in March 2017 that that month’s attack on Parliament, which killed five people, was “not terrorism”. In February 2018, Sir Mark Rowley, the outgoing Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and former head of Counter-Terrorism Command, said that Mend was “seeking to undermine the state’s considerable efforts to tackle all hate crime’”.
But the JC has learned that were it not for a last-minute intervention by leading moderate British Muslims and concerns raised by the Community Security Trust, the Board was ready as late as November 26 to offer its support to the proposed Islamophobia definition — in time for the Westminster launch only days later.
The Board was willing to back the definition despite being shown the final definition and its accompanying report at the very last moment, leaving it unable to exert any influence over its wording and content.
Moderate British Muslim voices have told the JC this week that the APPG report fell within the “Islamist tradition” in failing to address issues such as sectarian Muslim-on-Muslim hatred and open homophobia from some sections of the community.
They were also deeply critical of the report’s attempt to undermine already existing laws in the UK that already cover racial and religious hatred.
“I was really shocked at the Board’s handling of this issue,” one Muslim source told the JC this week. “Do they want to work with progressives — or do they want to pander to those on the extremes?
“They were going to back the definition and the report when the reality was Mend and others were behind it. Where was the due diligence?”
The APPG on British Muslims announced in October 2017 that it had formally begun work on the establishment of a “working definition of Islamophobia that can be widely accepted by Muslims, political parties and the government”.
Chaired by Conservative MP Anna Soubry and Labour’s Wes Streeting, the APPG, which had been founded earlier that year, aimed to avoid the mistakes of its previous incarnation as the APPG on Islamophobia, which was disbanded after revelations in the JC over its links to organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and iEngage — the previous name taken by the organisation Mend.
The JC understands that following the battle to get the Labour Party to accept the IHRA definition of antisemitism last summer, the Board, along with the Community Security Trust, came under political pressure to publicly support the proposed Islamophobia definition — particularly from Mr Streeting, the Ilford North MP. Mr Streeting was said by one source to have suggested it was vital that the Board and
Asim Qureshi once referred to Islamic State terrorist Jihadi John as a ‘beautiful man’
Professor Salman Sayyid and Marie van der Zyl