Civil Service fails the Islamist challenge

Whitehall mandarins should get tough on Muslim activists in their ranks

By Paul Richards, July 2, 2009

Azad Ali is many things. He is a member of the ruling council of Liberty, the civil rights group. He writes about the Middle East for a blog hosted by the Islamic Forum of Europe. He presents a talk show on Muslim Community Radio, which is currently appealing for funds to send to Gaza.

He is treasurer to the Muslim Safety Foundation, which comprises many groups, including the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). He helps to run the East London Mosque. From his writings and broadcasts, it is clear that Mr Ali is a devout Muslim, political activist, propagandist and champion for political Islam.

He is also the President of the Civil Service Islamic Society, which has the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, as its patron.

This week, it has been reported that he is returning to his job as an Treasury official. He had been under investigation after allegations that he failed to abide by the centuries-old convention that British civil servants must be politically neutral.

During the IDF’s operation in Gaza, Azad Ali was far from neutral on his blog. On December 30, 2008, under the headline, “We are the resistance”, he wrote: “There is no respite from the terrorist slaughter machine of the Zionist state of Israel. America and our own government have given much fuel to this machine and in fact helped to build the killing machine.”

Then, on January 15: “From the outset of this latest massacre, the Zionist terrorist state of Israel had only one aim, to destroy all semblance of resistance… we have yet to hear any condemnation from our government.”

So it is pretty clear — a civil servant published a political attack on the government he serves, in what seems to be direct contravention of the Civil Service code which forbids “speaking in public on matters of national political controversy; expressing views on such matters in letters to the press, or in books, articles or leaflets”. All civil servants, regardless of rank, are made aware of this code.

I am not going to blame Azad Ali. He thinks his employers helped to build “the terrorist slaughter machine of the Zionist state of Israel”.

So I would guess that he’s unlikely to be a great respecter of Britain’s quaint traditions when it comes to civil service neutrality. And I suppose you can’t blame him for pursuing his political goals, if that is what he believes.

But what about the Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, and the Cabinet Secretary, who is head of the Civil Service?

If they are remotely aware of this case, then what on earth are they thinking in allowing such an outspoken political activist to return to a job in the civil service? Have they any idea how damaging it is to its credibility if it appears that all civil servants must be politically neutral, except for the ones who raise funds for Hamas and remove Israel from the map?

If the mandarins knew, and turned a blind eye for fearing of causing “offence”, it is further proof that there are sections of the British establishment that simply fail to comprehend the true nature and intent of some of the organisations of political Islam.

Paul Richards is a former special adviser to Hazel Blears MP at the Department for Communities and Local Government

    Last updated: 12:11pm, July 2 2009