Another Trojan Horse

by - 4th June 2014

There is no smoke without fire.  Day one of the Megamosque Inquiry in London’s Docklands and already the only Muslim brave enough to give evidence against the mosque has withdrawn.  Why?  Not because she was ‘intimidated’, but because she was ‘persuaded’. 

Suddenly one of the most effective and convinced Muslim women activists in Britain has seen the light: the Muslim group most closely associated with the oppression of women all the world over is liberal after all.

Yes, it’s true that the book of Heavenly Ornaments Bahishti Zewar demands that women of this Tablighi Jamaat sect wear ‘black sheets’, with which they are to be covered ‘from top to toe’.

Yes, it’s true that in their Delhi heartland only 5% of TJ women can read. 

Yes, it’s true that this author actually had to conduct her interview with the elders at the Delhi HQ with her back to them.

Notwithstanding all that, Tehmina Kazi the founding Director of the visionary, ground-breaking British Muslims for Secular Democracy has been ‘persuaded’ that the Tablighi Jamaat are about to change and promote the cause of independent-minded womanhood, as our story yesterday explains.

This is the woman who said, trenchantly in her Proof of Evidence at the first Inquiry into the mosque in 2011:  ‘The TJ discourages integration into British society, especially of female members, since they essentially do not communicate with non-Muslims … Instead, female members… are kept secluded and the values surrounding this seclusion are transmitted to their children.’ 

I am told, and not by Tehmina, that the persuader extraordinaire is one Mudasser Ahmed, one of those flashy operators whose web presence indicates he knows everyone and has ‘led on projects’ everywhere from the United Nations, the BBC, the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, the Prince of Wales’ Trust … you name it.

I gather from a Muslim source that he can be very persuasive indeed, especially when Europe’s biggest mosque – a whopping 9,000 capacity – is at stake.

He’s even got the Planning Inquiry into doing somersaults over whether he’s actually involved or not.

Mudasser Ahmed is named formally as a Newham People’s Alliance (NPA) delegate to the Inquiry; that was Gorgeous George Galloway’s little cover to curry voters in London’s troubled fringe, for a frantic while.

Ahmed is the founding CEO of an outfit called Unitas Communications. His Chief Operating Officer is Shiraz Ahmad who - surprise, surprise - is the full-time representative of NPA at the Inquiry and formally speaks on NPA's behalf.

A Muslim source says that Mudasser Ahmed is a liberal Muslim who would only speak up for TJ if he was paid. It looks as if someone with deep pockets is paying Unitas to promote the mega-mosque case through NPA, alongside the official mosque trustees – the appellants - who are, as Tweetfolk keep reminding me, ‘apolitical’.

Before the opening Statements yesterday, Christopher Boyle QC on behalf of the appellants (TJ) informed the Planning Inquiry that ‘NPA does not speak on behalf of the appellants and does not represent the appellants’. 

They are ‘Rule 6 status participants’ - independent parties formally authorised to give evidence at the Appeal. 

The Appeal, which will be decided by Eric Pickles, was brought after Newham Borough Council lost patience and enforced their own planning conditions –after 17 years of inertia while TJ broke or ignored every rule in the book.

And yet – and here’s the rub -Tehmina Kazi emailed her formal withdrawal from the Inquiry to NPA on Sunday evening - not (as she should have) to the Planning Inspector's office.

NPA delayed before forwarding it to the Planning Inspector at 16.40 on Monday afternoon.

Poor Tehmina.  Powerful Muslim men have closed ranks to isolate a winsome young woman who was given a job to achieve an objective that has proven after all, too fragile and inventive to stand up against the gale of traditional Muslim patriarchy, and ambition.

British Muslims for Secular Democracy of which she is founding Director buckled at the first serious challenge to its authenticity. Let's hope it regroups.

The Tablighi Jamaat have declared that they exist to resist Western and Christian values.   Those values are secular and democratic.  And they take women seriously.

Newham’s megamosque, dreamed of as a ‘bridgehead to promoting the movement throughout Europe and the West’, could be another Trojan Horse, consolidating fundamentalism, fearfulness and mysogyny around it.

Eric Pickles must shut the stable door before it bolts. 

All quotes are from Tablighi Jamaat in Britain by Zacharias Pieri available from Amazon here.