EXCLUSIVE: Andy Burnham co-hosts event with controversial Ramadan Tent despite Starmer pullout

Muslim organisation’s CEO has backed Cage, whose research director in 2015 hailed a notorious Isis terrorist as a “beautiful young man”


Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham attended an interfaith event organised by a Muslim outreach group even though Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pulled out of a similar event with the organisation after the JC flagged concerns about the views of its CEO.

Labour leader Keir Starmer pulled out of the virtual Iftar, hosted by an organisation called the Ramadan Tent Project, after the JC raised concerns about the group.

But the Manchester Mayor co-hosted the fast breaking meal, held last week.

The group describes its mission as “bringing communities together to better understand each other”.

But Sir Keir cancelled the event after the JC highlighted how its chief executive officer, Omar Salha, had backed controversial groups such as Cage on Twitter. In 2015, Cage’s research director hailed the notorious Isis terrorist known as Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man”.

In 2017, Mr Salha tweeted: “Time for those who stand for the values of justice and liberty to support UK Cage and not be intimidated by the powers that be.”

In its report this year, the Commission for Countering Extremism urged the government to crack down on organisations such as Cage.

The report was welcomed by the Board of Deputies, which branded Cage a “toxic group”.

In March, 2019, the Ramadan Tent Project’s own Twitter account praised the Muslim advocacy group Mend as a friend and supporter.

In 2016, the Board said it was “unable” to work with Mend because the approach the Muslim advocacy group had taken risked “increasing hostility and suspicion between the Jewish and Muslim communities, rather than building trust and empathy”.

And in March Mr Salha shared a tweet from the Friends of Al Aqsa account that expressed support for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Backing a boycott of Israeli dates, the tweet said: “This #Ramadan, Don’t Eat into #Palestine”.

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), while popular with the left of the Labour Party, is not backed by Labour policy.

At the event the Labour Manchester Mayor spoke about his work to tackle inequality within the city, including setting up an Independent Commission and a Race Equality Panel to challenge public and private organisations within Manchester to match words with actions.

The JC contacted Mr Burnham’s campaign team for comment.

The Ramandan Tent Project, which was set up in 2013, said that over the years more than 200,000 people had attended its flagship event during the month of Ramadan – with speakers including the Mayor of London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, members of the Conservative and Labour parties, the Board of Deputies and the Muslim Council of Britain.

A spokesman added: “Ramadan Tent Project is proud to have hosted speakers from a variety of backgrounds and is committed in continuing to do so.”

He added: “Ramadan Tent Project has always sought to welcome people from all backgrounds and our mutually respectful and positive relationship with the British Jewish community is an important constituency which falls within that.”

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