Restore secular politics in Tower Hamlets

Submitted by AWL on 28 April, 2015 - 4:43 Author: Jean Lane

I don't like the idea that a privileged, conservative judge ousts Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman for alleged electoral malpractice, rather than a tribunal of the people he is supposed to serve.

I also don't know whether all the accusations against Rahman upheld by the judge are true or not. I am not going to take the judge's word for it. I am also not going to take the word of former councillors for George Galloway's Respect group that he is not.

The residents of Tower Hamlets, of which I am one, have plenty of reasons to want Rahman and his communalist politics out.

Some left-wingers are supporting Rahman and listing wonderful things that his council group are supposed to have done. I was in the council chamber during the cuts vote when Oliur Rahman, Lutfur's stand-in till the election takes place, slashed youth services, describing it as, "an opportunity for parents to spend quality time with their children".

I was also there when the cuts were described by a pro-Rahman female councillor, who was pumping the air with a clenched fist at the time, as a "triumph for women".

Some also deny the judge's finding that 101 imams said "that it was the duty of faithful Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman... with religious duty being mentioned in canvassing before the poll and to voters attending polling stations on election day".

Why are imams involved in the democratic process at all? This should be a secular society. Residents of Tower Hamlets should be able to decide what they do or think without religious leaders guiding them.

What disturbs me about the accusations of Islamophobia against anyone who criticised Rahman is that they came from the left. At an anti-cuts meeting, a Bengali woman was not listened to when she warned that there were forces in the East London Mosque (the biggest in the area) who were dangerous people. The mosque has been at the centre of the political process, although there are Bengali residents who do not agree with this.

Left-wingers have supported the campaign to close all the sex shops and clubs in the borough, on the coat tails of the vile right wing moral police whose angle is that women should not be allowed to display their bodies.

The right-wing local Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick had the courage to say that he could not attend a wedding because he disagreed with the segregation of women. He was roundly vilified. But many Bengali women in the borough do not agree with segregation.

During the council elections, I have canvassers come to my door who, when seeing a white woman at the door, say, "sorry my mistake" and walk away. I challenge then to discuss politics with me about segregation, cuts, faith schools, academies. Not interested.

Left-wingers, in a lash-up with Galloway, carried out a vile campaign against former local Labour MP Oona King, producing leaflets of her scantily clothed and pointing out that she was Jewish. When local youths threw stones at her and her election supporters, they didn't criticise them.

None of those pro-Rahman left-wingers had anything to say about the woman worker in the chemist shop near the mosque who was threatened with losing her job when her manager was told that his shop would be burned down if she did not put on a headscarf.

I will be voting Labour in the general election. And for Labour in the re-run of the mayoral election. Not because I think that they will do what the working class want, but because we need a return to secular politics. The "left" candidates are too discredited in how they have responded to communalism to get my vote.

For democratic process

For secular politics

For women's liberation

For public services, free and available to all.