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Written By: Ahmedullah
28/05/2014 16:04 28/05/2014 13:54
Contemporary Debate

Greatness is a relative concept and therefore not all greatnesses are equivalent in reality. However, all greatnesses are something extraordinary based on the contexts, challenges and barriers faced by the individuals in question and how they overcame them.

I feel Mayor Luthfur has achieved something extra ordinary given the challenges he faced during the last five years. He stood up to and managed to overcome the combined might of the local Labour and Tory parties in Tower Hamlets, BBC's Panorama, Andrew Gilligan, Channel Four's Dispatches, many hardcore Islamophobes, among others, and also perhaps hardcore Bengali Nationalists / Awami League elements (speculations on my part by putting two and three together).

Many decent Awami League oriented people from the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets also supported Luthfur in this election partly and perhaps because they were deeply hurt by the allegations made by the Panorama programme Mayor and Our Money. However, I feel many hard core Bengali nationalist, inspired by the triumph of the AL party in Bangladesh in 2009, decided to embark on a mission to isolate anyone who does not follow their militant secularism and Bengali nationalism and support their new aggressive anti-Jamaat agenda. I feel (although this is pure speculation on my part) part of the portrayal of Luthfur as an Islamic extremist or who has links with Islamist extremists is because he was not willing to play according to the new agenda coming from Bangladesh and distance himself from one section of the local community identified by certain groups as Islamic extremists.

A recent really badly written article will help illustrate the thinking behind my speculation (UK "The Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets" Who Is Mayor Lutfur Rahman? by Mohshin Habib,Gatestone Institute, 20 May 2014). The author quoted Andrew Gilligan extensively without analysing whether they were based on any truths. In the same article he reported that according to Abdul Gaffar Chaudhury, a well known militant Bengali Nationalists and Awami League secularists, saying "that Tower Hamlets has become a stronghold for Jamaat-e-Islam, a Wahhabi religious and political group". He further quotes Mr Chaudhury as saying that "Some progressive Bangladeshi expatriates, living in London, are now labelling the borough under Lutfur Rahman as 'Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets". And that that "in 1980s and 1990s, Tower Hamlets was a center of cultural movement and progressive people, but that after Rahman became mayor, unfortunately it turned into a den for Jamaat-e-Islam." Anyone who knows Tower Hamlets well will know that this is just preposterous, false, partial and propaganda.

In 2005 I was invited to speak at a Kent County Council conference in Margate covering the county-wide educational under achievement of Bangladeshi children. One of the speakers was a senior officer from Tower Hamlets council who shared success stories and good practices from the Borough. He reported that one of the most effective and successful strategy they adopted in Tower Hamlets to deal with educational under achievement was the running of a number of projects and programmes jointly with the East London Mosque. I believe Cllr. Helal Abbas was the leader of the council at that time, not Luthfur. Working with the East London Mosque to address local needs is not a new thing under Luthfur.

I personally know some hardcore militant secularists and nationalists from Bangladesh who became embolden with the election triumph of the Bangladesh Awami League in Bangladesh in 2009 and have brought more of the country's political divisions and conflicts into Britain, particularly Tower Hamlets, with a view to isolating and weakening the Jamaat's large influence on East London through its hold on the East London Mosque. I feel (pure speculation on my part) that the attack on Luthfur by this group of militant Bengali Nationalists and Awami secularists is because they saw him as someone standing on their way to achieving their new aggressive agenda.

Luthfur in contrast wanted to serve the local community by improving local services and was not interested in playing the new aggressive militant Awami League agenda (I am speculating as I have not spoken to Luthfur on anything). Subsequent attack on Luthfur was, as far as I can see, was undertaken by an alliance of forces with a lot of power and influence that did not want a self identified Bangladeshi Muslim to do well and succeed in British politics, serving all communities.

Nobody would have ever thought a few years ago that Luthfur would be described as a great man by anyone and some may even laugh at this label but in my view he has achieved greatness by overcoming a mighty force, assembled to destroy him, single handedly with support from local people in Tower Hamlets. Sometimes some ordinary people are catapulted by circumstances and experiences of injustice and unfairness to actions of resistances and by overcoming challenges they become great.

To Luthfur's enemies I say that continuous attack on Luthfur will have diminishing returns. The theory that if you continue to throw mud some will start sticking is only true if there are no one to either clean the mud, throw some back or prevent the throwing in the first place. The local Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlets are not as vulnerable, weak and gullible as thought by some. They have become empowered and can fight back effectively.


Through this struggle Luthfur has shown how to fight back against big boys / big bullies and win and as a result has empowered and energised many more people in the local community.



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EAST LONDON Mayor Luthfur Rahman Tower hamlet Mayoral election 


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