Socialist Worker

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman forced out by a campaign of racism

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2451

Lutfur Rahman (centre) protesting against the racist EDL in 2013

Lutfur Rahman (centre) protesting against the racist EDL in 2013 (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The long Islamophobic witch hunt against Lutfur Rahman continued last week with his removal as mayor of Tower Hamlets in east London. 

Election commissioner Richard Mawrey said Rahman had breached election rules and declared his re-election last year as void. 

Rahman, who won with a 3,000 majority, has been banned from standing again. He has also been ordered to pay £250,000 in costs. 

The judgement has provoked outrage. Glyn Robbins is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and Left Unity general election candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow in Tower Hamlets.

He told Socialist Worker, “There is anger at how the establishment paints Muslims as insular and backward—yet when they do get involved in politics they’re told they aren’t doing it right.”

Mawrey’s 200-page judgement upholds allegations by four people that Rahman used “corrupt and illegal practices” during the election. These petitioners have been presented as ordinary voters. But they include Angela Moffat, a member of the racist Ukip party.

Rahman denies all of the claims. And a £1 million inspection by accountants PricewaterhouseCooper last year found no evidence of fraud or corruption.

Myth

The judgement perpetuates the racist myth of Muslims as passive zombies manipulated by their leaders. It says, “A distinction must be made between a sophisticated, highly educated and politically literate community and a community which is traditional, respectful of authority and, possibly, not fully integrated with the other communities living in the same area.”

It upholds the claim that Rahman used “spiritual influence”.  Mawrey cites a letter signed by 101 imams stating it was a “religious duty” to vote. But there was no outcry in March when a letter from Catholic bishops was read out at masses across England and Wales urging people to “think carefully” about who to vote for in the general election.

The judgement criticises Rahman for referring “to the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets as if it were a small beleaguered ethnic minority in a sea of hostile racial prejudice”.

But Tower Hamlets is not isolated from Islamophobia.The racist English Defence League (EDL) tried three times to march there.

Each time it was defeated by a united mobilisation of Muslims, trade unionists and others. Mawrey dismissed this, saying, “Truly in Tower Hamlets, if the EDL did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.”

The judgement is an attack on democracy in Tower Hamlets. It must be resisted.


Organising resistance

A meeting to organise the fightback against the attack on democracy on Tower Hamlets has been called for Thursday of this week. 

Speakers were set to include Lutfur Rahman, Salma Yaqoob, Stop the War convenor Lindsey German and Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism.

Last November some 1,000 people came to a meeting in Tower Hamlets after Tory minister Eric Pickles sentin a takeover squad to run the council. 

This showed the potential to build resistance to the attacks. The general election will be another opportunity.

TUSC and Left Unity candidate in Bethnal Green and Bow Glyn Robbins will be leafleting in the borough this Saturday.

He said, “On 7 May we have the chance to tell the establishment, ‘We’ll decide who to vote for and who runs our borough’ and vote for a socialist.”

Thu 30 April, 6pm, The Waterlily, London E1 4TT

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