Andrew Neil presided in a debate for the BBC earlier this week with the main candidates for Mayor of London. Parts of the discussion were tiresome or even absurd – for instance there was a demand to define “affordable” housing. The challenge was to give a figure for the weekly rent or purchase price of a property above which the housing was unaffordable, but below which it was affordable. Yet any figure will be affordable for some but unaffordable for others. I have long felt we should ditch this meaningless term. Next question: “How many can dance on the head of a pin?”
What the debate did allow for was the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan to be challenged over his extremist associations. Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate, was very reasonable. He was not saying that Khan himself was an extremist but that Khan had repeatedly given cover to those who were. Andrew Neil and Peter Whittle, the UKIP candidate, also asked about this. Khan’s response was not convincing. Specific questions met with general responses. Such as that on other occasions extremists had attacked Khan or that he “wasn’t going to take lessons” from Whittle.
Other favoured diversionary tactics from Khan are to claim that he is simply being attacked for being a Muslim. Sometimes he would say that the attacks are “smears”. But most people would define a smear as an allegation that is untrue.
So are the claims from the Goldsmith campaign smears or facts? Here are the claims and the sources they are based on.
Claim: “Your letter to the Guardian in the wake of 7/7, blaming terrorism on British Government policy.”
Facts: Letter to Guardian of 12 August 2006, co-signed by Sadiq Khan. The letter stated: ‘current British government policy risks putting civilians at increased risk both in the UK and abroad’. Khan was quoted directly: “We simply cannot ignore the fact that our country’s foreign policy is being used by charismatic [figures] to tell British Muslims that their country hates them.” (The Guardian, 12 August 2006,)
Claim: “Your choice to defend one of the self-confessed 9/11 terrorists”
Facts: Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty to involvement in 9/11 and with Al Qaeda, telling the court: ”I, Moussaoui Zacarias, in the interests to preserve my life, enter with full conscience a plea of guilty, because I have knowledge and participated in Al Qaeda.” (New York Times, 19 July 2002)
Legal magazine The Lawyer confirmed that Khan was on Moussaoui’s defence team (The Lawyer, 28 July 2003)
Claim: “Your choice to take on the British Government to overturn a ban against the hate preacher Louis Farrakhan.”
Facts: Louis Farrakhan, according to the BBC; ‘was (a) man who had described Judaism as “a gutter religion”, characterised Christianity as an oppressive faith linked to the slavery of black people and called Adolf Hitler “great”, although he said later that he had meant “wickedly great”.’ (BBC News website, 15 March 2002)
In 2002 Sadiq Khan represented Farrakhan in his bid to have a ban on him entering the U.K overturned – a ban that had been upheld by successive Home Secretaries since 1986. Khan told the BBC: “He is preaching a message of self-discipline, self-reliance, atonement and responsibility….It’s outrageous and astonishing that the British Government is trying to exclude this man.” (BBC News website, 30 April 2002)
Claim: “Your step-by-step legal guide on how to sue the Metropolitan Police that you now want to lead.”
Facts: Khan wrote a chapter in a legal guide entitled ‘Actions Against the Police’. In the article Khan urged claimants to ‘think laterally in looking for human rights issues; many are not obviously a breach of human rights, but have a human rights angle’. He also advised claimants that ‘aggravating features’ such as accusing officers of acting in a ‘high handed’ manner could attract a higher level of compensation. (Challenging Racism: Using the Human Rights Act, Lawrence & Wishart, 2003 cited in Mail on Sunday, 3 April 2016)
Claim: “Your decision to share a platform with an extremist who called for Jews to be drowned in the ocean and who threatened ‘fire throughout the world’. And then to dismiss that preacher’s words as mere ‘flowery language’”
Facts: Dr Azzam Tamimi has been described as an anti-semitic hate preacher who has said: “Sacrificing myself for Palestine is a noble cause… I would do it if I had the opportunity.” (Jewish Chronicle, 8 February 2010)
Labour MP Louise Ellman quoted Tamimi in the Commons in 2003: ‘He told a conference in Vienna that after Israel is destroyed and replaced with an Islamic state, the Jews should “sail on the sea in ships back to where they came or drown in it.” (Hansard, 18 December 2003, Col. 1764).
Khan attended a rally in Trafalgar Square in 2006 where Tamimi threatened “fire throughout the world”. Khan later told reporters: “Speakers can get carried away, but they are just flowery words.” (The Sun, 8 February 2016)
Khan was criticised by fellow Muslim Labour MPs for ‘self-serving revisionism’ post 7/7. Khan claimed Tony Blair summoned him and other Muslim Labour MPs after 7/7 and said: “it was our responsibility” (The Guardian, 2 July 2015)
However, the other three MPs at the meeting came out last year and directly contradicted Khan, saying his recollection was ‘at complete odds’ with theirs and that the meeting ended with unanimous agreement on the need for unity’. They said: ‘To misrepresent the words of a British prime minister and to mischaracterise a significant meeting in the wake of the tragic loss of 52 lives a week earlier is frankly beyond the pale’ (The Guardian, 15 July 2015)
Khan repeatedly shared a platform with a group backed by al-Qaeda recruiters. He attended at least four events organised by ‘Stop Political/Police Terror’ between 2004 and 2005. The organisation was backed by Anwar al-Awlaki, dubbed the ‘bin Laden of the internet’. SPT called for Muslims not to co-operate with the police and later became the notorious Cage. (Sunday Times, 7 February 2016)
Khan repeatedly joined an extremist preacher at rallies, who has called for an Islamic State. Khan shared a platform with Suliman Gani, a former Imam at the Tooting Islamic Centre in Khan’s constituency, on at least nine occasions between 2004 and 2013. On the night of the Paris terror attacks, Gani spoke at an event in Bradford calling for an Islamic State. Gani also urged fellow Muslims to vote for Khan in Tooting and is previously on record as saying women should be subservient to men, and questioning Britain’s ‘bully tactics’ for preventing Muslims travelling to fight in Syria. (Sunday Times, 14 February 2016)
When asked in Parliament, Khan chose not condemn Yusuf al-Qaradawi – who justifies suicide bombings and celebrates the holocaust. When asked directly about him, Khan said: “I would not believe the hype…. quotes attributed to this man may or may not be true”. (Home Affairs Select Committee, 8 July 2004)
At the time, Al-Qaradawi defended suicide attacks against Israeli saying: “It’s not suicide, it is martyrdom in the name of God.” (BBC Newsnight transcript, 8 July 2004)
He also praised the holocaust and called it ‘exaggerated’ and ‘divine punishment’: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” (Daily Telegraph, 13 May 2013)
Ahmad pleaded guilty and was convicted for producing a website that was described as ‘the very first real al Qaeda website’ which ‘taught an entire generation about jihad’ according to terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann (Teaching Terror: Strategic and Tactical Learning in the Terrorist World, accessed 2 March 2016).
Azzam.com offered advice entitled ‘How do I train for Jihad?’. It published advice for would-be jihadis, encouraging aspiring terrorists to read up on ‘AK-47 and other Soviet weapon Operating Manuals… [and] sniper training’ (Azzam, accessed 2 March 2016).
It was also the first site to publish the 1996 declaration of war by Osama bin Laden on the West (Azzam Publications, accessed 11 March 2016)
Khan has previously claimed that Ahmad was innocent. Khan told the House of Commons that Ahmad should not just be “presumed innocent until he is found guilty,” but was “in fact innocent.” He did not go on to explain why he thought he was innocent, even though he could have done so. (Hansard, 12 July 2006, Col. 1429)
Khan described Ahmad as an ‘affable, gentle and hardworking constituent and friend’ who has ‘done a great deal for the community.’ Elsewhere he has described Ahman as ‘an intelligent, articulate graduate with a lovely family’ (Free Babar Ahman, accessed 2 March 2016).
Ahmad’s sister was full of Khan’s praises. She said: ‘Sadiq Khan went out of his way for Babar’s case and the people of Tooting should be proud to have him’ (Asian Image, accessed 2 March 2016).