Police trained on ‘Islamophobia’ by jihadist backers

Controversial group Mend, which was criticised in Sir William Shawcross’ review of Prevent, also gave courses to universities and the NHS


Images of a Mend training session with South Wales Police

A Muslim group which has defended jihadists and led prayers for a “Palestinian victory” has trained police forces, universities and the NHS in “Islamophobia” since October 7, the JC can reveal.

The Islamist organisation Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), which denounced the Home Office’s proposed blacklisting of terror group Hizb ut-Tahrir on its website, gave Islamophobia training to British Transport Police on 12 November.

On 10 February, the group delivered similar training to the South Wales Police. Two weeks later, Mend’s CEO Azhar Qayum gave a speech urging his audience to pray “for the defeat of the Israelis and the victory of the Palestinians”.

Last year, Sir William Shawcross’ review of the government’s counter-extremism programme found that Mend had “a well-established track record of working alongside extremists” and of “seeking to undermine the state’s considerable efforts to tackle all hate crime”.

Yet in addition to training the police, in the months since October 7, Mend has delivered courses to staff and students at universities including Hertfordshire, Bristol, Manchester Metropolitan and Huddersfield, as well as Cardiff Women’s Aid and the Lancashire branch of the Mental Health Charity Mind. On 12 December, Mend organised an online session attended by more than 80 NHS staff from Public Health Wales.

In his review of Prevent, Sir William warned that Mend had “used NHS hospitals to publicise their brand, distribute literature and promote their campaigns”, and “used these platforms to claim that the NHS is one of their partners”.

He pointed out that by law the NHS is part of Prevent and shares the “Prevent duty” to safeguard against extremism, which meant “it is incongruous for the NHS to partner with groups who campaign against Prevent”.

The disclosures raise serious questions about the extent to which Britain’s most important public institutions remain vulnerable to extremist influence.

Last night, Sir William told the JC that the government’s “lack of progress” on implementing the recommendations in his report left the public “in greater danger” (see p2).

Last week, Mend spearheaded attacks on Lord Austin for calling Hamas “Islamist murderers”, after which he was ​suspended as chair of the Midland Heart housing association. Michael Gove, the Housing Secretary, said he was “deeply concerned” and demanded “an urgent meeting and explanation”.

Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, told the JC: “I am astonished that Mend is still being used by police forces and other public bodies, especially in relation to matters that touch on extremism.

“Their website contains a huge amount of material that many will find offensive. Police forces, universities and other public bodies need to have clarity over the principles they must apply before appointing any outside consultant.”

Mend’s website features articles calling Sir Keir Starmer a “a pro-Zionist leader who has been fully supportive of Israel’s war crimes and genocidal killing”, and supporting the “anti-Zionist” former Bristol professor David Miller.

Mend’s former head of engagement, Azad Ali, lost a 2010 libel action against the Daily Mail, which had described him as “a hardline Islamic extremist who supports the killing of British and American soldiers in Iraq”.

Ali left Mend to work for the terrorist prisoners’ support group Cage, whose policy director, Asim Qureshi, infamously described the Isis executioner Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man”.

On 10 February, when Mend leader Qayum gave a speech in Leicester in which he asked for prayers “for the defeat of the Israelis”, Qureshi was alongside him. Also present was another Cage leader, former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg.

Qureshi said in his speech that Israel was a “settler colonial apartheid racist regime” that “cannot exist”, adding: “Are we not part of the lines of resistance? It is a duty for all of us to take whatever measure that we can to cut off the oxygen of all of the support that Israel has in any single sphere.”

Begg told the crowd: “It is my prayer that from this day onwards that we continue to make this prayer, that the Zionist state of Israel will be dismantled and crumble in our lifetime.”

Qayum said in his speech that Zionism was a form of racism because it involved throwing out Palestinians and replacing them with Israelis on what was rightfully Palestinian land.

In a statement on its workplace courses on Islamophobia to the South Wales Police, Mend’s website says “officers, sergeants, and staff engaged in thoughtful discussions, offering valuable insights and raising pertinent questions” and “proposed innovative solutions to combat Islamophobia within their communities”.

The session with the British Transport Police on 12 November was described an “interactive exploration that provided officers with invaluable insights into the Islamic faith, the varied faces of the Muslim community and the harsh realities of Islamophobia.” As a result, “officers can now better identify and address Islamophobic behaviour while on duty”.

The Public Health Wales sessions “touched upon research… that provides a deeper insight to the challenges faced by professionals in the NHS/healthcare profession” in tackling Islamophobia and “workplace discrimination”, the website says.

Lord Austin was suspended by the housing association Midland Heart last week after he posted a reference to the discovery that Hamas had built a bunker beneath the Gaza headquarters of Unwra, the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees.

Austin’s post read: “Everyone, better safe than sorry: before you go to bed, nip down and check you haven’t inadvertently got a death cult of Islamist murderers and rapists running their operations downstairs. It’s easily done.”

Mend claimed this contained “humiliating stereotypes” which constituted “harassment towards Muslims”.

An online backlash led to the peer receiving several death threats. His suspension was condemned by Housing Secretary Michael Gove, who said on Saturday: “Not only is lan a champion for affordable housing, he has spent his career fighting racism. Islam is a religion of peace, but Islamists – including the proscribed terrorist organisation Hamas – are extremists characterised by violence and oppression who seek to undermine our democratic values. They must be challenged wherever we encounter them.”

Austin deleted the post, saying: “As I have written and said many times – including in a national newspaper today – the vast majority of Muslims are just as appalled by racism and terrorism as everyone else.”

But the Birmingham-based association, which manages 34,000 homes worth £1.7 billion, suspended him, saying it had arranged a meeting “to discuss his removal from the board” next week.

In an email seen by Inside Housing, Midland Heart chief executive Glenn Harris said Lord Austin’s comments were “not endorsed by Midland Heart” and that his post “offended people”.

Lord Austin, one of Parliament’s most outspoken voices against antisemitism, told Sky News last week: “If the only country you campaign against – the only country you want to see abolished – is the only Jewish one, don’t tell me that you’re not an antisemite.”

Last year, he was appointed by Gove’s department to head an inquiry into riots in Leicester involving Muslims and Hindus. This drew fierce criticism from local councillors who signed a letter Gove asking him to withdraw the appointment on the grounds that Lord Austin “lacked a legal background” and had been “publicly accused of racism”.

This was a reference to a tweet he had posted in 2021 suggesting that the ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s, which had stopped selling its products in the West Bank, had introduced a new flavour for Gaza which he called “Hamas terror misu”.

A well-placed Midlands Heart source claimed the association was “not branding Lord Austin as racist”, nor criticising his political beliefs.

A spokesperson for Gove’s department said he had been appointed to head the Leicester inquiry “based on his expertise and experience. He is wholly independent of Government and will continue to lead this important Review, in consultation with the people of Leicester.”

When approached by the JC, Mend said: “We congratulate Midland Heart on suspending Ian Austin for his continued troublesome views.”

The Muslim group went on to question the views of William Shawcross, adding: “To rely on [his Prevent] review to accuse us of anything is libellous.”

Regarding the speech by its CEO Qayum, Mend said: “He did not mention ‘fighting’ or ‘Hamas’, he asked Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims to pray for the victory of the Palestinian people over the genocidal Israeli army. ‘The victory of Justice and the defeat of tyranny,’ to quote him.”

The organisation strongly denied “any insinuation that he supported Hamas, or mentioned them or intended support for them during the talk”.

The JC has approached the British Transport Police for comment.

South Wales police Superintendent Tim Morgan said that the Mend training had formed part of wider training programme called “Diversity Matters/Inclusion wins”, which aimed to “educate our own teams on a full range of views, experiences and perspectives.

“However, South Wales Police regularly reviews the organisations we invite to provide training delivery.”

He added: “This ongoing review will now include the use of Mend for this session and any future links with the organisation.”

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