Islamist demonstration in London (file)
Islamist demonstration in London (file)Reuters

A UK Conservative Party source has claimed that an organisation called Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) is trying to influence Tory party candidates standing in the upcoming General Election in Britain.

The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Jewish Media Agency (JMA) that when he first heard Mend chief executive Sufyan Ismail speak at a Tory campaign event, it was “like listening to the Muslim brotherhood.”

“[Mr Ismail] spoke at great length in Urdu and English. He condemned anti-terrorism legislation and government letters to mosques. […] He said we must fight Islamophobia,” the source told JMA. “It was a Muslims-as-persecuted-victims speech. When he spoke in Urdu, he got quite wild and the Muslim audience loved him.”

These comments come in the wake of an article for The Daily Telegraph, in which Andrew Gilligan reports that a “front group for extremists” is negotiating with both the Conservative and Labour leaderships in the run-up to the General Election to be held on May 7.

According to Gilligan, Mend is a “facade to win political access and influence for individuals holding extreme, bigoted and anti-democratic views.”

At least one Conservative election candidate is said to have been approached by “a high-profile Muslim” and offered campaign money in return for back the group's so-called Muslim Manifesto, the newspaper reported.

In recordings heard by The Daily Telegraph, Mr Ismail describes his organisation’s strategy to act as political kingmaker in the General Election in May and claims it can control between ten and thirty seats in the House of Commons:

“Right now, we are negotiating with the Labour leadership, we are negotiating with the Tory leadership and insh’allah will start with the Lib Dem leadership as well, where we have a list of manifesto pledges,” he told an audience at the Zakariyya Central Mosque in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

“The Muslim vote is worth ten ordinary votes because […] we are heavily concentrated in a few areas,” he said.

“Anybody who can give any one party ten, twenty, thirty seats, like we can, they have to listen to you.”

Mr Ismail also told the Bolton meeting how the Mend had organised to “batter the Israeli lobby” in the House of Commons.

Mend has been wooing both the Conservatives and Labour in recent months. Lynton Crosby, the Conservative campaign director, has attended Mend events. At least ten Labour and Tory MPs joined the launch of Mend’s so-called Muslim manifesto in the House of Commons in March, which among other things calls on politicians to “commit to support for the creation of an independent state of Palestine and the end to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories by December 2017.”

The Muslim Manifesto, which also calls on politicians to “acknowledge that the holy scripture of Muslims (the Qur’an) does not endorse terrorism and the murder of innocents,” was highly praised by Conservative Baroness Warsi who said that the “Muslim Manifesto is something you can take to your election candidates.”

However Warsi herself was recently revealed to have her own links to Muslim extremists, and recently appeared on a Mend panel together with several Islamist speakers, including an anti-Semitic preacher who has voiced sympathy for Adolf Hitler.

Labour Members Gerald Kaufman, Yasmin Qureshi, Kate Green and Cabinet Office shadow minister Jon Ashworth, were also at the manifesto launch. Ashworth opined, “I think this manifesto is really important and a great initiative. I will be studying it very carefully and I will be passing it on to our Shadow Cabinet.”

The manifesto was presented by Azad Ali, who is Mend’s director of engagement. He received a warm welcome from the parliamentarians who conveniently overlooked his track record. This is the same Azad Ali who, in 2009, wrote that Muslims are religiously obliged to kill British soldiers in Iraq:

“If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation. If I found the same soldier in Jordan I wouldn’t touch him. In Iraq he is a fighter and an occupier, here he is not. I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for jihad.”

Azad Ali used to attend talks by Abu Qatada, the radical Muslim cleric who once stated that it was not a sin for a Muslim to kill a non-believer for the sake of Islam. And in a 2008, Mr Ali called al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar Al-Awlaki "one of my favourite scholars and speakers":

“I really do love him for the sake of Allah, he has an uncanny way of explaining things to people which is endearing,” he wrote on the Islamic Forum of Europe’s blog.

It is worth mention that before he became leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband spoke at an event with Mr Ali where the latter praised Hezbollah and Hamas.

Mend itself is a rebranding of a group called Engage, which not only censured Muslims who oppose Islamist extremism but condemned the British political establishment for breaking off relations with the Muslim Council of Britain, after one of its signatories declined to remove his name from the Istanbul Declaration, which called on Muslims to "carry on with the jihad and resistance against the occupier until the liberation of all Palestine.”

Peter Tatchell, the political campaigner best known for his work with LGBT social movements, has this to say about Mend:

“Mend […] support Sharia law, which includes the execution of apostates, blasphemers, LGBT people and women who have sex outside of marriage. They also preach intolerance of people of other faiths, including fellow Muslims (especially Shia).”

He continued: “Mend sound fine on paper […] But this is the new strategy of far right Islamists, to disguise their true extremist agenda. They’ve rebranded themselves […] but their clerical, anti-human rights agenda remains the same.”

So, given all we know about Mend and its personnel, is it acceptable that major figures within the two main British political parties are allowing themselves to be influenced by a “far right” Muslim organisation?

Is it right that men such as Mr Ali who endorses the murder of British soldiers should wield so much influence within the British political system? Labour and the Conservatives need to ask themselves whether they are being duped by Mend, which to all intents and purposes is a Trojan horse for Islamist extremism.