22 Oct 2010
Lutfur Rahman – who won just over 50 per cent of the vote – ran as an independent after he was deselected as Labour’s candidate. He was backed by George Galloway’s Respect organisation. Mr Rahman, who served as Labour leader of the council until he was removed six months ago, said all he wanted to do was serve the people of Tower Hamlets – whatever their colour, religion or creed.
His election bid was supported by several Labour councillors, and London’s former mayor Ken Livingstone, who risked internal party discipline to back him against the official Labour man, Helal Abbas. Mr Abbas, who’s been leader of the council five times, launched a bitter attack on his rival last night accusing him of being “in the gutter”. He called it a sad night for anyone who wanted to build a better future, and a united Tower Hamlets.
The two men have been embroiled in bitter infighting throughout the campaign. Last month Mr Abbas produced a dossier accusing Mr Rahman of being influenced by a group called the Islamic Forum of Europe – which he described as a “fundamentalist organisation which is gradually infiltrating the Labour party.” It was this document which influenced the party’s National Executive Committee to remove Lutfur Rahman as the official candidate, and replace him with Mr Abbas.
A campaign, called Ramazan Festival, has been launched here and in a couple of other European countries to what the organisers say create harmony amongst different cultures and religions by inviting people of all faiths to take part in celebrations of the holy month of Ramazan. The campaign urges Muslims to use the 30-day holy period to reach out to other communities who are either not aware of the rich Islamic culture or have negative perceptions about the Muslims and Islam. It is asking the over 1,600 UK mosques and cultural and religious organisations to make it a point to invite people from other faiths and backgrounds to observe from close quarters the cultural strength of Islam.
Director of the festival Syed Mohsin Abbas said: “Ramazan is the perfect vehicle to initiate positive dialogue between Muslims and the mainstream. And the Iftar is the perfect time to celebrate the positive contribution, richness and diversity of British Muslims.” Ramazan Festival is the first transnational cultural event of its kind and also it is taking place for the first time in Britain. Mr Abbas said that Muslims would ‘feed a friend’ during the campaign to help the British homeless. Many restaurants owned by Muslims have been lobbied to run a discounted Iftar menu. Hundreds of arts and cultural events, including Iftar parties and Eid fairs and celebrations, are being planned across Europe.
The director hopes the festival will be successful in achieving its desired objectives in the long run. “Our intention is to arrange 40 days of arts and cultural events in 2008 which will reflect the diversity of British Muslim cultural expression that exists in the UK. We are here to stay and we will take the uniqueness of this festival to Muslim communities all over the world.” M. Ziauddin reports.
Full-text article available here. (Some news sites may require registration)