The below is a response from the Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman, in response to a blog written by Nick Cohen.
Nick Cohen has attacked me as a ‘bully’ for reporting to the police some threatening tweets by Rob Marchant, a blogger who used to work for the Labour Party. I make no apology to Cohen in respect of my response to such outbursts. Unsurprisingly, as a prominent Muslim figure, I frequently receive abuse and threats — mainly from racist extremists of the EDL-ilk. That and the sheer violence of Marchant’s language in discussing me (‘I will load the revolver and we can all take turns … [makes mental note to keep revolver well cleaned and oiled]’) should explain why I acted when the tweets were drawn to my attention.
Marchant has since said that the remarks were merely a tasteless joke, which he regrets, and I am glad he has removed them from Twitter. More objectionable still is the picture Cohen paints of me. I’m branded ‘the front man for the Islamic Forum Europe’. The truth is rather more pedestrian. I’m not even a member of the organization. Of course, I deal with the IFE as Mayor – but then so has every previous council leader – and equally, I work with groups of all faiths and none. These smears first came to prominence in blog-articles penned by the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan, who joined forces with my political opponents when I was seeking selection as Labour’s candidate for the newly created mayoralty, seeing Tower Hamlets as an extension of his obsessive vendetta against former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, with whom I’ve worked closely.
The IFE is not a sinister, extremist network: it is a faith-based community group based at the East London Mosque, which works to promote integration and engagement in civil society. It did great work preventing our youngsters getting involved in the riots, which largely passed Tower Hamlets by.
Cohen is gripped by an irrational paranoia that Britain is about to fall siege to the ‘religious right’. But that’s not me: I’m a moderate social democrat. I stand for fairness and equality, and it’s these values I’ve promoted in my time in politics, as the Labour council leader and more recently as the borough’s directly-elected Mayor. We’re building more social housing than any other council nationwide, we’ve brought back the scrapped Education Maintenance Allowance and Stonewall rates us the best council in London for LGBT equality. Does this sound extremist?
I lament the passing of this country’s proud tradition of thorough, investigative journalism where hard evidence was intrinsic to a story rather than an inconvenience to be ignored. All I ask is that discerning readers judge me not on the basis of hysterical insinuations – but on my record.
Nick Cohen’s reply will be published later