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Lutfur Rahman exploited his faith to manipulate voters to elect him: Report

 
 

According to a ‘The Times’ report on Friday, Richard Mawrey, the election judge, made the observation in his judgmentThursday.

He noted that Rahman gave grants to Bangladeshi and Muslim lunch clubs, media organisations serving only the Bangladeshi community, and paid fees for broadcasts which promoted himself.

The judge considered such benevolence amounted to bribery, the report said.

Britain’s first directly elected Muslim mayor reportedly paid £100,000 in grants to 10 Bangladeshi and Muslim lunch clubs, without being asked for such favour.

“Not since the Irish Catholic peasantry of rural Co Meath were ordered by their bishop, on pain of excommunication, to vote for his favoured candidates has a vulnerable community been so bullied by its spiritual leaders,” the report observed.

On the last Friday before the election, 101 imams and scholars asked local people to re-elect Rahman as it was their “religious duty”.

To convey their message, they wrote a letter in the Bangla-language press addressing the electorates.

“His corrupt and illegal campaign has shown the ugly way Islamic identity politics took root in one of multicultural Britain’s many urban ethnic enclaves.

“Anyone who stood in the way of his ambition was bombarded with accusations of racism and Islamophobia. Almost everybody was cowed into obedience,” the Times magazine wrote.

In Tower Hamlets, people of the Bangladeshi origin are the largest ethnic group, comprising 32 percent of the total population. Thirty-five percent of the inhabitants are Muslims.

“Although Mr Rahman and his associates constantly refer to the Bangladeshi community of Tower Hamlets as if it were a small, beleaguered, ethnic minority in a sea of hostile racial prejudice, the court must look at the reality,” the newspaper quoted the judge as saying.

His administration was reportedly marked by Islamic identity politics and his friendship with Hafiz Moulana Shamsul Hoque, the chairman of the local council of mosques, helped to consolidate his hold over the community.

He also ran the administration with the help of only Bangladeshi councillors.

“The public gallery of the council chamber was often filled with the mayor’s raucous supporters, who would shout abuse at Peter Golds, the leader of the Conservative councillors, because he is Jewish and gay,” the paper said.

It alleged that Rahman apparently never tried to curb such behaviour of his supporters.

The former Bangladesh-born mayor’s role was also found suspicious in the sale of the old Poplar Town Hall, scene of the 1920s rates rebellion.

It was reportedly sold for a price as low as less than £1 million, and then granted valuable planning permission to be turned into a hotel.

“Mr Rahman’s re-election campaign last year proved how crudely the Muslims of the area were being exploited,” the daily said.

“There are 45 mosques in the borough. Many Bangladeshis are devoutly religious. A significant proportion, even of those born in Britain, do not speak English as a first language. Politicians have tended to regard them as a voting bloc,” the Times report pointed out.

Against such backdrop, quoting the judge, the newspaper observed, any politician who “secures the Muslim vote”, was well on the way to being elected.

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