Islamic Forum of Europe

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Official logo of the IFE

The Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) is an Islamic organization based in London with branches throughout the United Kingdom. Its website states it has branches in "most of the European countries including: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland".[1]

Its youth wing is called the Young Muslim Organization (YMO), which is based in Tower Hamlets, "with several branches across Britain," and is very active among the Bangladeshi community.[2] The YMO was established mainly by Bangladeshi youths in East London during the period of racial attacks in Tower Hamlets in 1978. Its women's wing is Muslimaat UK.[1]

It reports having branches in Birmingham, Bradford, Hyde, London, Luton, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Oldham.[3] The group is said to have a more limited following in Birmingham where it has around 80 members.[2] Its London and Sunderland branches are affiliated to the Muslim Council of Britain.

History[edit]

IFE was founded in 1988 as a British Bangladeshi professional group, by Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin among others.[4] Its first president was Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari who later became chairman of the East London Mosque,[5] succeeded by Musleh Faradhi as President since 2005.[6]

It was reportedly founded by former members of the Jamaat-e-Islami-affiliated group Dawatul Islam, with whom it came into conflict over management of the East London Mosque "throughout the late 1980s"[7] resulting in "two High Court injunctions" in 1990 in "response to violence" at the mosque.[8] Dawat'ul Islam is now based at another mosque, Jamiatul Ummah Bigland Street.[2]

The Italian and Greek IFE was founded in 1996, whose ameer is Hafiz Mawlana Aminur Rahman.[citation needed]

Allegations of extremist activity[edit]

The group has been described as part of a movement of Bangladeshi immigrants in east London away from secular left politics towards Islamist politics.[9]

IFE is also reported as the group which runs the East London Mosque, which is located close to its offices.[10][11] IFE and the mosque have hosted extremist preachers including Anwar al-Awlaki.[12] Farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick blamed the organisation for sex segregation policies at the mosque after attending an Islamic wedding held at the venue which strictly seated men and women separately.[13][14]

A Dispatches documentary aired on 1 March 2010 suggested the IFE are an extremist organization with a hidden agenda that went against Britain's democratic values.[15] Dispatches quoted Azad Ali, the IFE's community affairs coordinator, as saying, "Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that".[16][17]

However, in a comment piece in the Guardian newspaper, Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain suggested that many of the people interviewed on the programme had hidden agendas of their own and highlighted that Jim Fitzpatrick, who suggested the Labour Party had been infiltrated by IFE members, was up against George Galloway in the upcoming elections who had overturned a 10,000+ majority held by Oona King at the 2005 general election.[18]

Galloway was recorded as saying that his 2005 election owed "more than I can say, more than it would be wise for me to say, to the Islamic Forum of Europe."[19] Responding to the Dispatches programme, Galloway denounced it as a smear, credited the IFE only as one of several groups that helped his anti-war campaign, and claimed to know little about the IFE's membership or policies.[20]

The programme also claimed that the IFE also helped Lutfur Rahman to gain the leadership of Tower Hamlets Council from 2008 until 2010. Six unknown Labour councillors told Dispatches that a senior IFE official had threatened to mobilise the group's supporters against them if they did not support the candidate. IFE in a response to the programme stated that the programme "Presented a grossly inaccurate and misleading picture of the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE). The programme failed to broadcast IFE’s responses to many of the allegations and therefore failed in its basic obligation of fair, honest and balanced reporting."[21]

The IFE and YMO were featured in the book The Islamist by Ed Husain, where he explains that the YMO attracts mainly English-speaking Asian youths, providing circles or talks daily at the East London Mosque; while teaching about Islam, it covers the political system of the religion.[22] In Feb 2010 the (conservative) Daily Telegraph describes the group as "a sophisticated political group with a structured rank system and hardline goals. Prospective recruits must attend training. One undercover reporter was told that she would have to take an exam and swear an oath of allegiance and ordered to keep her membership of the IFE a secret."[5]

Robert Lambert, co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre, has criticized the accusations, maintaining that youth workers from the Islamic Forum of Europe were actively working to oppose the influence of extremist groups such as Al Qaeda and Al Muhajiroun: "the brave Muslims involved have received no praise for their outstanding bravery and good citizenship, and instead faced a never ending barrage of denigration." More recently during the 2011 England riots, on 9 August, IFE youth workers made use of social media to thwart and chase away a large mob of looters from Whitechapel, where the East London Mosque is located.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Responding to the call, IFE website
  2. ^ a b c Bangladeshi Diaspora in the UK SOAS Conference on Human Rights and Bangladesh
  3. ^ "National Branches". IFE. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Gilligan, Andrew (15 April 2012). "Leading British Muslim leader faces war crimes charges in Bangladesh". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Andrew Gilligan, Inextricably linked to controversial mosque: the secret world of IFE, Daily Telegraph, 28 Feb 2010
  6. ^ Call for ban on 'bomb Ireland' extremist| Tom Brady, Irish Independent, 24 November 2012
  7. ^ Husain, Ed, The Islamist, Penguin, 2007, p.24-5, 166
  8. ^ Husain, Ed, The Islamist, Penguin, 2007, p.279
  9. ^ Delwar Hussain, "Bangladeshis in East London: from secular politics to Islam", Open Democracy, 7 July 2006
  10. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/sep/06/east-london-mosque-edl-march
  11. ^ Roel Meijer, Edwin Bakker. The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. Columbia University Press, 2012.
  12. ^ Andrew Gilligan (16 May 2010). "Radical Muslims lose grip on London council". The Daily Telegraph. 
  13. ^ Liz Stephens, Jim Fitzpatrick walks out of Muslim wedding, 14 August 2009, politics.co.uk
  14. ^ Tom Savage, Minister's Muslim wedding ban fury, 14 August 2009
  15. ^ Andrew Gilligan, Backlash at the mosque, Daily Telegraph, 13 March 2010
  16. ^ Andrew Gilligan, "IFE: not harmless democrats", The Guardian, 4 March 2010
  17. ^ Andrew Gilligan (22 October 2010). "'Britain's Islamic republic': full transcript of Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Lutfur Rahman, the IFE and Tower Hamlets". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  18. ^ Inayat Bunglawala, "Watch out: democratic Muslims about", The Guardian, 3 March 2010
  19. ^ Andrew Gilligan, "Lutfur Rahman: yet more backers he really shouldn't want", Daily Telegraph, 16 September 2010
  20. ^ George Galloway, Galloway's Rebuke to Dispatches Programme. Socialist Unity. 1 March 2010
  21. ^ [1]. Islamic Forum Europe.
  22. ^ The Islamist, pp. 52-60.
  23. ^ Lambert, Robert (12 August 2011). "Muslims tackle looters and bigots". MWC News. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 

External links[edit]