LBWF and the fight against ISIS

As a previous post has indicated, there are serious questions to be asked about Waltham Forest’s attempts to confront local Islamist extremists. The record over the past decade has been at best mixed, and includes some embarrassing failures. The fact that LBWF will not discuss its current Prevent programme in any detail only adds to the sense that someone, somewhere is afraid of further revelations. LBWF Chief Executive Martin Esom may think of himself as an expert in this area, and chair the London Prevent Board, but whether the local authority as a whole is fulfilling its responsibilities remains unclear.

Two recent events increase anxieties. First, a Channel Four investigation reveals that, over the past two or three years, ISIS sympathisers have been using the Waltham Forest Community Hub (until recently, the ‘Asian Centre’) in Walthamstow for weekly meetings. The Hub is council owned and funded. It is a reasonable expectation that its hirings policy should conform to council guidelines. Of course, it is sometimes difficult to identify groups who wish to keep their identity secret. But (a) we are not talking about a one off event, rather something that has been going on for a long time; and (b) given the present dangers, a proof positive policy should have been in place. The blunt fact is that this hiring should not have happened.

Such a conclusion is amplified because it turns out that there was an almost identical episode at the same place nine years ago. The Guardian report is here:

Subsequently, LBWF put in place some safeguards, and enrolled named councillors to keep a watching brief. Recent Community Hub annual reports suggest that those fulfilling this role have included the following:



Cllr. Saima Mahmud, Cllr. Ahsan Khan, Cllr. Mark Rusling, Cllr. Peter Herrington, Cllr. Naheed Asghar, Cllr. Asim Mahmood, Cllr. Abu Samih
2012-13 Cllr. Saima Mahmud, Cllr. Ahsan Khan, Cllr. Mark Rusling, Cllr. Peter Herrington, Cllr. Naheed Asghar, Cllr. Abu Samih

Cllr. Saima Mahmud, Cllr. Ahsan Khan, Cllr. Mark Rusling,


Quite clearly, both these individuals, and the LBWF leadership, now have some explaining to do.

The second event is equally worrying. I understand that after the recent Paris murders, LBWF called together a number of the supposed key players to discuss the local ramifications. Almost the entire meeting focused on the possibility of an anti-Muslim backlash, and the underreporting of associated hate crime. The question of how better to confront local extremists was largely ignored.

Now if this is correct – and my source is reliable – it again puts the borough in a very bad light. Hate crimes are abhorrent. Perpetrators should be vigorously prosecuted. But at this time, Islamist extremists represent the biggest threat, to Muslim and non-Muslim residents alike. And that should have been the priority item at the meeting.

As always with LBWF, one is left bemused. There is a degree of preening about expertise, the supposed council pre-eminence at Prevent. The Muslim block of councillors (so well identified by the Institute of Community Cohesion) is clearly intent on its own agenda. Groups like the laughably named Islamic Human Rights Commission are taken seriously. A common thread running throughout is a lack of transparency and accountability. It is as if there is a tacit agreement that residents as a whole are not to be trusted, with the majority of the population written off as quasi-racists or infants.

And meanwhile ISIS sympathisers are permitted to meet regularly on council property right under our elected representatives’ noses.

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