Rishi Sunak captured in selfie with Tory extremist

Shajan Ali, who shared Hizb ut-Tahrir material, is one of five Tory candidates who circulated extremist views


The prime minister has appeared in a selfie with one of several Tory council candidates who have expressed extremist sympathies, the JC can reveal.

There is no suggestion that Rishi Sunak endorses the views of Shajan Ali, who is running for office in Rochdale. But the photograph raises serious concerns about the quality of vetting of candidates in the Conservative Party.

Ali, who has shared Hizb ut-Tahrir material, is only one of at least five Tory candidates who has circulated extremist statements and videos online.

Others have prayed for Israel to be “wiped out” and shared posts blaming Britain for “signing over Israel to the Jews”.

The selfie was posted by Ali on his Facebook page on April 22 after he was joined on the campaign trail by Sunak and Chris Clarkson, the Tory MP for nearby Heywood and Middleton.

After naming those present, Ali’s caption ended with the words “Jazak Allahu Khairan”, an Arabic phrase that means “may God reward you with goodness”. In November 2023, a month after the Hamas pogrom, Ali shared a video by a leading figure in the jihadi group Hizb ut-Tahrir calling Israel “the occupying entity” and denouncing Arab leaders as “donkeys” for failing to attack alongside Hamas.

In the video, jihadi leader Luqman Muqeem said that this proved “there can never be victory” without the establishment of a new Muslim caliphate.

That same month, Ali posted a video of himself on an anti-Israel march in London, wearing a keffiyeh.

Two months later, the government proscribed Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation, making it a criminal offence to give it encouragement or support.

Ali, who will be contesting the elections on May 2, has also shared links to a video by an American conspiracy theorist claiming that on October 7 “Hamas did not kill civilians” but “the IDF did”.

Another video he posted makes lurid claims that Israeli snipers were deliberately shooting through the windows of the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza at doctors and nurses inside.

It also asserted that Israeli soldiers had forced medical staff to leave the hospital “at gunpoint” so that 120 premature babies were “left alone to die”.

Approached by the JC, Ali said if the vidoes were “so offensive, then Facebook should have removed them”, and that he was merely “sharing information” from the internet. “If you think these videos should not have been uploaded, you should get in touch with Facebook,” he said.

“I’m not here to cause any problems”, he added, saying: “I am standing up for the truth. Where has your freedom of speech gone?”

Ali said he was a “peace-loving individual” who advocated inter-communal harmony. As for Hizb ut-Tahrir, he did not support the establishment of a global caliphate.

Tory MP Andrew Percy said: “The views expressed by these candidates are utterly disgusting, racist and openly promoting Jew-hatred.

“They have absolutely no place in politics, let alone the Conservative Party, but they also show how much more care parties need to take with the vetting of candidates.

“I will be writing to the Tory Party chair and I expect swift action to be taken. Local party branches need to much more careful in their selection of candidates.”

While Labour’s vetting procedures have come under intense scrutiny as Sir Keir Starmer has moved to remove antisemites from the party after the Corbyn years, the cases unearthed by this newspaper suggest the Conservatives may not have been as vigilant.

Ali is not the only Tory council candidate in north-west England who has circulated extremist views.

Standing for the party in nearby Hyndburn is Sajid Mahmood, a councillor and the local cabinet member for health and communities. In 2015, Mahmood wrote of “Israel bastard soldiers” who made his “blood boil” and were “coward twats”.

More recently, he “liked” a Facebook post claiming “Britain are responsible for the children of Gaza mental health problems by signing over the country to the Jews [sic]”.

He also liked one that condemned Israel for “war crimes”, adding: “Britain can’t say anything because they are the one who made big mistake giving Palestine land to Israel in 1948 [sic]”.

In nearby Bolton, Tory candidate Mazhar Iqbal shared a post in March that said: “May Allah wipe Israel off the face of the earth”. Later that day he shared another which repeated a similar prayer in Arabic.

Vetting procedures also appeared ineffective in the case of another Tory candidate, Ishfaq Hussein, who is running for re-election in Peterborough.

In 2021, the Peterborough Telegraph reported posts in which he said Jewish people living in Israel were “not true Jews”, that Zionism was “one of the worst afflictions in the world” and that Jerusalem should become “the capital of Palestine to stop more bloodshed, genocide by the Zionists and to uphold basic human rights”.

In another, he said America, Israel and Saudi Arabia comprised a “trilogy of Zionists”.

When approached by the press, he said he recognised Israel’s right to exist and supported a two-state solution, and apologised for having used “ill-judged and offensive language”. He told the JC this week he had been “cleared of any misdoing”, adding that “what is happening in Palestine now is a genocide”.

Similarly, a little further north of Rochdale, in Pendle, where the town hall flew the Palestinian flag during the late Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2022 and ten Labour councillors left their party at the beginning of April in protest over Starmer’s support for Israel, Tory councillor Mohammad Aslam is about to become the town’s mayor, having served for a year as deputy.

In 2019, the JC reported that he had shared a post on Facebook claiming the Jewish then-Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was “funded by the Israel lobby”, and another decrying “radical Jewish terrorism”.

In this and other posts he shared, Israel was described as “a terrorist state”. In another post, he shared a video with a caption reading “Jerusalem, we are coming” beneath an image of gun-toting militants in a military parade.

The Tory Party said in 2019 that it was investigating him but has never reported the outcome, raising further questions about its vetting and enforcement procedures.

The Conservatives have taken action in some cases, however. Two weeks ago, the party suspended Hyndburn candidate Mohammed Riaz after the JC revealed he had shared links to an extreme right US website that claimed US politicians had been “bought by Israel” and implied that the “synagogue of Satan” was responsible for child sacrifice.

Riaz is now running as an independent.

A Conservative spokesman said: “We’re proud to be a party that supports opportunity for all, of all races and religions. 

“Any form of discrimination or abuse is wrong and where cases have been reported to CCHQ the party has acted decisively, launching an immediate investigation under our party’s code of conduct.

“The Conservative Party has an established code of conduct and formal processes where complaints can be made in confidence. This process is rightly confidential.”

Mahmood, Aslam and Iqbal were approached for comment.

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