Police outside a polling station in Tower Hamlets. Photo:Getty
Show Hide image

Leaflets urging Muslims not to vote issued in Tower Hamlets

Locations targeted included streets near polling stations in the Poplar and Limehouse constituency, which has previously been reported for displaying an Isis flag. 

Leaflets urging Muslim citizens “DON’T VOTE” that were distributed in public places around Tower Hamlets on Thursday have been called “a travesty”.

The leaflets, which were discovered and reported by local residents, said: “None have the right to legislate except Allah. Appointing an MP as a legislator is shirk (polytheism).”

Shirk is the sin of worshipping more than one deity, which is forbidden in Islam. The leaflets also said: “Democracy is a system whereby man violates the right of Allah and decides what is permissible or impermissible for mankind, based solely on their whims and desires. #StayMuslimDontVote.”

Rabina Khan, a Tower Hamlets councillor who is running for mayor in the June elections after her former party leader Lutfur Rahman was ousted from power, said: “The leaflets are a travesty. It is ironic when we have fought so hard for immigrant communities to be treated with equal concern and respect, that people calling themselves Muslims are attempting to prevent us from exercising our right to vote.

“We send a message loud and clear to those behind these leaflets; that no kind of extremist will prevent us from participating in a democratic society as equals”, she continued.

Around 346 police were stationed over the borough for the election after the former mayor Lutfur Rahman was last month deposed from power after being found guilty by the High Court of electoral fraud in the 2014 mayoral election. Mr Rahman, who was the first directly elected Muslim mayor in Britain, was also accused of spreading racist rumours about his opponent, John Biggs.

A representative from Tower Hamlets Metropolitan Police Service said: “Police are aware of these leaflets in circulation and are working with the Electoral Commission.”

Locations targeted included streets near polling stations in the Poplar and Limehouse constituency, which has previously been reported for displaying an Isis flag. The constituency is one of two in Tower Hamlets, both of which remained Labour seats on Thursday.

A spokeswoman from the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Come every election time, a small band of naysayers will try to dissuade people not to vote. On the one hand we have anti-Muslim bigots telling us that Muslims participating in politics is a threat to our democracy, while a band of misguided agitators tell us this is against Islam. Both are wrong.”

 “Come every election time the Muslim Council of Britain and scores of mosques and Imams come out in large numbers urging people to vote, for the good of our country, and as a civic duty we as Muslims must fulfil”, she said.

The East London Mosque, which recently held a voter registration event organised by London Citizens and the Cabinet Office said: “The East London Mosque has always assured its congregation that voting in elections is a responsible and Islamically acceptable practice.”

However preachers such as Anjem Choudary disagree. On 22 April, Mr Choudary posted on Twitter that “a Muslim that votes due to ‘opinions’ from secularists is sinful as every Muslim must know Allah is the ONLY legislator”. Attached to the tweet was an image of flyers similar to the ones seen in East London.

According to Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), a non-governmental organisation which seeks to encourage greater participation in politics by the Muslim community, only 50 per cent of Muslims turn out to vote compared with a national average of 67 per cent.

Police are asking anyone with information about the people who distributed the leaflets to contact police via 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800555111.

Show Hide image

Will the collapse of the EU/Canada trade deal speed the demise of Jean-Claude Juncker?

The embattled European Comission President has already survived the migrant crisis and Brexit.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the embattled President of the European Commission, is likely to come under renewed pressure to resign later this week now that the Belgian region of Wallonia has likely scuppered the EU’s flagship trade deal with Canada.

The rebellious Walloons on Friday blocked the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The deal for 500 million Europeans was at the final hurdle when it fell, struck down by an administration representing 3.2 million people.

As Canada’s trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, walked out of talks in tears and declared the deal dead, fingers were pointed at Juncker. Under pressure from EU governments, he had agreed that CETA would be a “mixed agreement”. He overruled the executive’s legal advice that finalising the deal was in the Commission’s power.

CETA now had to be ratified by each member state. In the case of Belgium, it means it had to be approved by each of its seven parliaments, giving the Walloons an effective veto.

Wallonia’s charismatic socialist Minister-President Paul Magnette needed a cause celebre to head off gains made by the rival Marxist PTB party. He found it in opposition to an investor protection clause that will allow multinationals to sue governments, just a month after the news that plant closures by the world’s leading heavy machinery maker Caterpillar would cost Wallonia 2,200 jobs.

Juncker was furious. Nobody spoke up when the EU signed a deal with Vietnam, “known the world over for applying all democratic principles”, he sarcastically told reporters.

“But when it comes to signing an agreement with Canada, an accomplished dictatorship as we all know, the whole world wants to say we don’t respect human right or social and economic rights,” he added.  

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was due to arrive in Brussels on Thursday to sign CETA, which is backed by all EU leaders.

European Council President, Donald Tusk, has today spoken to Trudeau and his visit is currently scheduled to go ahead. This morning, the Walloons said they would not be held to ransom by the “EU ultimatum”.

If signed, CETA will remove customs duties, open up markets, and encourage investment, the Commission has said. Losing it will cost jobs and billions in lost trade to Europe’s stagnant economy.

“The credibility of Europe is at stake”, Tusk has warned.

Failure to deliver CETA will be a serious blow to the European Union and call into question the European Commission’s exclusive mandate to strike trade deals on behalf of EU nations.

It will jeopardise a similar trade agreement with the USA, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Commission claims that an “ambitious” TTIP could increase the size of the EU economy by €120 billion (or 0.5% of GDP).

The Commission has already missed its end of year deadline to conclude trade talks with the US. It will now have to continue negotiations with whoever succeeds Obama as US President.

And if the EU cannot, after seven years of painstaking negotiations, get a deal with Canada done, how will it manage if the time comes to strike a similar pact with a "hard Brexit" Britain?

Juncker has faced criticism before.  After the Brexit referendum, the Czechs and the Poles wanted him gone. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban muttered darkly about “personnel issues” at the Commission.

In July, it was reported that Angela Merkel, the most powerful politician in Europe, was plotting to oust Juncker. Merkel stayed her hand, and with German elections looming next year is unlikely to pull the trigger now.

When he took office in November 2014, Juncker promised that his administration would be a “political Commission”. But there has never been any sign he would be willing to bear the political consequences of his failures.

Asked if Juncker would quit after Brexit, the Commission’s chief spokesman said, “the answer has two letters and the first one is ‘N’”.

Just days into his administration, Juncker was embroiled in the LuxLeaks scandal. When he was Luxembourg’s prime minister and finance minister, the country had struck sweetheart tax deals with multinational companies.  

Despite official denials, rumours about his drinking and health continue to swirl around Brussels. They are exacerbated by bizarre behaviour such as kissing Belgium’s Charles Michel on his bald head and greeting Orban with a cheery “Hello dictator”!

On Juncker’s watch, border controls have been reintroduced in the once-sacrosanct Schengen passport-free zone, as the EU struggles to handle the migration crisis.

Member states promised to relocate 160,000 refugees in Italy and Greece across the bloc by September 2017. One year on, just 6,651 asylum seekers have been re-homed.

All this would be enough to claim the scalp of a normal politician but Juncker remains bulletproof.

The European Commission President can, in theory, only be forced out by the European Parliament, as happened to Jacques Santer in 1999.

The European Parliament President is Martin Schulz, a German socialist. His term is up for renewal next year and Juncker, a centre-right politician, has already endorsed its renewal in a joint interview.

There is little chance that Juncker will be replaced with a leader more sympathetic to the British before the Brexit negotiations begin next year.

James Crisp is the news editor at EurActiv, an online EU news service.