Starmer cancels Ramadan event after JC flags organiser’s views

Sir Keir had been due to attend a virtual Iftar, the fast-breaking meal


LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Keir Starmer attends a press conference on Brexit at 2 Savoy Place on February 24, 2017 in London, England. The Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke at this pre-arranged event after last night's by-elections in which Labour lost their Copeland seat to the Conservatives, an area they had controlled for 80 years. They held on to Stoke-on-Trent Central but with a reduced return of 2.2%. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has pulled out of an interfaith event organised by a Muslim outreach group after the JC asked questions about the controversial views of the group’s CEO.

Sir Keir had been due to attend a virtual Iftar, the fast-breaking meal, hosted by an organisation called the Ramadan Tent Project on Wednesday.

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”.

The JC approached Labour after the Board of Deputies’ Tal Ofer highlighted Mr Salha’s views on Twitter.

It comes as Sir Keir’s aides face intense questions about their judgment after the Labour leader was thrown out of a pub by an angry landlord in Bath this week while on the campaign trail ahead of the local elections in May.

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 BoD 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”.

Mr Ofer also highlighted a tweet shared by Mr Salha in March 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.

In his social media posts, Mr Ofer said: “Who in Keir Starmer’s team did due diligence before agreeing to participate in this event and will Starmer reconsider?”

Speaking to the JC, Mr Ofer said: “I don’t really understand why Keir Starmer is going to participate in an event of an organisation whose CEO’s views are clearly unsavoury.

“His team should check the background of the people in these organisations.

“It’s all out there in the open so I am hoping Starmer’s office will reconsider his participation in this event because I am not sure it is good for the image the Labour Party is trying to portray as working with the Jewish community and having zero tolerance for antisemitism.

“We expect the actions to be louder than the words. They should be judged on the actions not just on the words.”

Just hours before the Iftar, Labour yesterday confirmed that Sir Keir had pulled out of the event. It is understood this was in response to the concerns raised.

It comes as his team’s judgment continues to be scrutinised after a disastrous pub visit in which he was berated by an angry landlord.

And earlier this month Sir Keir came under fire for visiting a church linked to a pastor opposed to equality legislation and gay marriage.

The visit to Jesus House, led by Agu Iruku, prompted a complaint by the LGBT+ Labour group and led to an unreserved apology by the leader.

The Ramadan Tent Project failed to respond to our inquiry.

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