Muslim group's 'vicious abuse' of candidates

● MPAC reported to equalities watchdog

By Martin Bright, May 6, 2010
Phil Woolas: target of a campaign by MPAC

Phil Woolas: target of a campaign by MPAC

A Muslim organisation which campaigns against candidates who support Israel has been reported to the equalities watchdog for intimidating behaviour.

The Community Security Trust raised its concerns about the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) in a meeting with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission before the election, and received an assurance that its activities would be closely monitored. Such has been the intensity of the MPAC campaign that the CST decided to take up the issue with the EHRC as soon as the polls closed.

MPAC accused several prominent Labour candidates of "Islamophobia" and urged Muslims to vote for others.

Their prime target was Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, whose 3,590 majority in Oldham East and Saddleworth was identified as vulnerable. Mr Woolas was accused this week of stoking racial tension by publishing an eight-page newspaper to publicise the attacks on him, including an alleged death threat.

A statement on the MPAC website said the organisation had been "campaigning peacefully in Oldham and Saddleworth for the past few weeks to encourage Muslims to express their democratic right to speak up regarding issues close to their hearts, lobbying against politicians that support illegal wars and display or nurture Islamophobic tendencies."

MPAC claims to be an organisation devoted to the "political empowerment of British Muslims" and to exposing injustice across the Muslim world.

However, several MPs targeted by the group have described it as an "extremist" organisation in their campaign literature.

In Hendon, Andrew Dismore raised his own concerns about the MPAC campaign to persuade Muslim constituents to vote for any of his opponents in protest at his consistent support for Israel.

Other targets included Rotherham MP Denis MacShane. MPAC issued an election leaflet advertising Dr MacShane's voting record and repeating tabloid stories about his expenses claims. Dr MacShane said one MPAC activist had been urging people to vote BNP in Rotherham.

MPAC has also been campaigning against Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood in Birmingham, whom they accuse of "demonising Muslims" by voting with the government on the war and
security issues.

Meanwhile, Ilford South MP Mike Gapes challenged the head of MPAC, Asghar Bukhari, to stand against him. Mr Bukhari notoriously admitted to funding the Holocaust denier David Irving.

Mark Gardner, Communications Director of the CST, said: "MPAC are notorious for viciously abusing and intimidating candidates whom they dislike. Knowing their track record, prior to the election campaign we raised our concerns with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which assured us that it would deal firmly with such behaviour.

"Now the election is done, we will discuss the situation with candidates and agree upon who is best positioned to move things forward with the Commission."

A spokesman from the EHRC said: "We had a meeting with CST earlier this year at which we outlined what we would be doing during the election period with regard to complaints about election literature and speeches which people may feel breached equality and discrimination guidelines or legislation."

He added that any complaint from CST would be taken seriously.

However, any incidents of intimidation during the election should be reported to the police and the Electoral Commission.

Last updated: 2:24pm, May 6 2010