Revealed: Labour voters targeted by radical Islamist group

Website called ‘The Muslim Vote’, founded by backers of violence, is encouraging people to vote tactically for Gaza


Sir Keir Starmer speaks with members of the media as he visits Whale Hill Primary School on June 11, 2024 in Eston (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

An influential campaign group trying to drive Muslims away from Labour and towards more radical, anti-Israel candidates was founded by Islamists who backed violent Palestinian “resistance” two days after the October 7 massacres, the JC can reveal. 

Key figures behind The Muslim Vote (TMV), an alliance of 24 activist groups which promotes and endorses selected parliamentary candidates across the UK, signed a pledge on October 9 saying they “reaffirm the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to resist Israeli military occupation, including the right to armed struggle”.

Among the signatories was TMV co-founder and head of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) Anas Altikriti, who posted photographs of himself meeting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on a visit to Gaza in 2012.

Another was Azhar Qauyum, the chief executive of TMV partner organisation Mend (Muslim Engagement and Development), who wrote on Facebook in 2014 that “Israel’s generosity” in withdrawing from Gaza in 2005 was “like the ‘generosity’ of Hitler”.

The pledge, which was published on the Islamist website 5 Pillars, went on to say that its signatories “reject the use of the word ‘terrorism’ to describe Palestinian acts of resistance”, and that in order to achieve Middle East peace, “the apartheid state [of Israel] must be completely dismantled”.

Senior Labour Party sources told the JC there was deep concern over the impact of TMV campaigning on the election.

One said that the campaign could trigger the loss of thousands of votes, especially in Lancashire, West Yorkshire, the Midlands and east London. In some areas, the source said, it had the potential to deprive the party’s candidates of victory.

After last month’s local elections, a Sky TV analysis found that in wards whose electorates were more than 20 per cent Muslim, Labour’s share of the vote fell by an average 18 percentage points.

The candidates endorsed by TMV include high-profile anti-Zionist firebrands such as George Galloway, journalist Yvonne Ridley and Chris Williamson, who was described as a “Jew baiter” by the then-chair of the Jewish Labour Movement in 2018.

Having represented Derby North from 2010-19, Williamson was prevented from standing for Labour at the last general election after being suspended amid a row over antisemitism.

Ridley and Williamson have worked extensively for Press TV, the channel funded and controlled by Iran’s brutal, antisemitic regime.

TMV is also campaigning on behalf of lesser-known Muslim candidates with radical views, such as imam Ajmal Masroor, who signed the October 9 pledge and is challenging Labour’s Rushanara Ali in Bethnal Green and Bow.

In a recorded speech, Masroor said after October 7 he was “not going to condemn Hamas or its assault on Israel”. He has also claimed that the Houthi terrorists who have attacked Red Sea shipping were “standing in defence of the Palestinians” and “fighting for the dispossessed”.

In an interview posted on YouTube on Saturday, he claimed aides to Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak had conspired to bring the date of the election forward because they feared that if they waited until autumn, there would have been at least 100 “pro-Palestinian, independent MPs” like himself elected to Parliament.

After TMV endorsed Masroor, another candidate who had been planning to run against Ali, the Isis bride Shamima Begum’s lawyer, Mohammed Akunje, announced he was standing down so as not dilute the challenge.

In the West Midlands mayoral race, Akhmed Yakoob – who stood on a “pro-Gaza, anti-Labour” platform – came third with almost 70,000 votes.

Having stated that Zionism was a “fascist ideology” and that Zionists “control everything”, Yakoob has built up a huge personal following and is now running as an independent with TMV support against shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood in Birmingham Ladywood.

A flamboyant solicitor who was previously known for collecting sports cars, including two Lamborghinis, Yakoob said in a speech earlier this year: “I know now why Allah has put me in this position, it’s to challenge the Zionist regime, challenge the elites of this country and the world… We live in a world that slowly is getting controlled by these elites.”

“The national Labour campaign isn’t going to be derailed by The Muslim Vote,” the Labour source said. “But even if the candidates it backs do not win any seats, there is a real danger that if people run for office on the basis of what’s happening in foreign conflicts, this will badly affect relations between communities here.”

TMV has held a series of several high-profile public events, and its website says it is extending its influence through mosques, schools and community groups.

“Our goal is simple,” TMV says, “this election signals a shift for Muslims – no more political apathy. We will no longer tolerate being taken for granted. We are a powerful, united force of 4 million acting in unison.”

Among the services TMV promises to provide for the candidates it endorses are local opinion polling, marketing and social media campaigns, legal advice and funding.

“We are focused on seats where the Muslim vote can influence the outcome,” the TMV website says. “In 2024, we will lay the foundations for our community’s political future.”

On Saturday, TMV announced it would not endorse any Labour or Tory candidates, because of their parties’ support for Israel in the current Gaza war.

It also disseminated a statement by David Miller, the former Bristol University professor sacked after expressing inflammatory anti-Zionist views. This claimed Labour was “fully owned, directed and even staffed with Zionist donors, Zionist advisers and Zionist parliamentary candidates”, that “most of these (not all) are Jewish” and that some were “working directly for the Zionist colony in Palestine”.

The TMV says candidates’ position on the Gaza war is the first of several “key criteria” by which it decides whether to offer them support. It is currently endorsing 30 independents, nine candidates from Galloway’s Workers’ Party, six Greens, five Liberal Democrats and eight Scots and Welsh nationalists.

Among the Lib Dems is Sarah Hoyle, who is standing in Finchley and Golders Green, where more than a fifth of the electorate is Jewish – the highest proportion in the country. There is no suggestion Hoyle holds extremist views.

One of TMV’s founders is Anas Altikriti, who also heads the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) – a group that Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove described in the Commons earlier this year as “Islamist” and said was being assessed by officials as to whether it fitted the government’s new definition of extremism. The MAB is listed as one of the groups that make up TMV on the TMV website.

Before signing the October 9 5 Pillars pledge, Altikriti had posted photographs of himself meeting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on a visit to Gaza in 2012, and sponsored events held by the terrorist prisoners’ support group CAGE.

In a YouTube interview posted on November 24, Altikriti described the war that began on October 7 as “an utter horrific failure for the Israelis and, as hard, as difficult to comprehend, an incredible victory and triumph for the people of Gaza”.

He appeared to back the kidnapping of the Israeli hostages, saying: “The taking of hostages is a very important part of any strategic military action or act of resistance. Because for every hostage, you can then negotiate. It’s a negotiating card… For Hamas, for the resistance, call them as you may, a hostage is very, very valuable. And therefore they will be looked after.”

His many social media posts since October 7 have been equally inflammatory. For example, on 25 December he wrote that “the day when the occupying state is no longer and Palestine is free is nearer today than any of us thought possible, all because of the incredible resistance of the Palestinian people”.

He has also posted comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, and claimed that “allegations of rape [by Hamas] made by Israel are false”. Altikriti has spoken at recent TMV events in Birmingham, and appeared last weekend in Cardiff to discuss “We, Gaza and the elections”.

Another leading figure in TMV who signed the October 9 pledge is Azhar Qayum, the chief executive of TMV partner organisation Mend (Muslim Engagement and Development), which Gove told Parliament was also being assessed for extremism.

Mend, Gove said, had raised concerns because of its “Islamist orientation and views”, claiming it was a “divisive force within Muslim communities” that could “cause real harm to them”.

Long before last year’s massacre, Qayum had expressed incendiary views. For example, in a speech recorded in 2017, he claimed: “There’s about five people who own all of our media. Those five people happen to be right wing, a lot of them happen to be Zionists, you know, you can see straight away where they’re coming from.”

In 2014, Qauyum wrote on Facebook that “Israel’s generosity” in withdrawing from Gaza in 2005 was “like the ‘generosity’ of Hitler”.

He also shared a comment on a pro-Israel poster that read: “If you were in South Africa you’d be a racist, in America you’d probably join the KKK, and if you were in Germany you would probably be a Nazi.” Qayum remarked that this “says it all”.

When these posts came to light in 2021, after Qayum became Mend’s CEO, he claimed he now regretted them, insisting he was not antisemitic: “Having had a huge amount of anti-racism training in my Mend years I would now not use the word ‘Hitler’ in this context, particularly as I now know how some have made antisemitic comments when making comparisons to Nazi Germany.”

Speaking at a TMV event in Birmingham last month was the prominent radical preacher Haitham al-Haddad, another signatory of the October 9 pledge.

On the day of the massacre, he issued a post on X which asked Allah to “grant victory to the people of truth in Gaza”, saying they had proven that the “occupation” was “weaker than a spider’s web”.

Later that week, he gave a sermon at Greenwich mosque that was posted online, in which he also asked worshippers to pray for a Hamas victory.

In January, al-Haddad posted a TikTok video claiming that reports of the 364 murders committed by Hamas at the Supernova dance festival were Western media “lies”.

Last summer, he led a delegation to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and afterwards gave an interview praising its use of “due process” in administering Sharia punishments and improvements in its educational system.

A Lib Dem spokesperson said Hoyle was unaware of the TMV’s support and did not share its view of the Gaza conflict.

Masroor said he supported Palestinians’ “right to resist occupation”. Altikriti confirmed he had made the statements quoted above, repeating his claim that Hamas had not mistreated its hostages.

TMV, Yakoob, Qayum and Haddad were approached for comment.​

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