The Guardian's resident Christian Giles Fraser posted an article at the weekend which makes a point about the removal of Lutfer Rahman the mainstream media, including his own newspaper seems to have ignored. Given this issue had blanket coverage when it first irrupted one cannot but wonder if there has been a cover-up which amounted to a media conspiracy of silence.
Trupti Patel, president of the Hindu Forum of Britain, during the recent general election campaign posted an open letter on the forum’s website attacked the Labour Party and the Lib Dems for insulting Hinduism by supporting legislation to outlaw caste discrimination. Only the Conservative Party has stated that if they are in a majority government, then this piece of unwanted legislation will be repealed,” she says, adding: “In these elections, the very honour of your faith is in danger of being undermined.” She went on to call for Hindus to vote Tory.
So what! you might say, it's all part of the cut and thrust of an election campaign. But hang on, around the same time across London another religious endorsement written to a Bangladeshi newspaper by 101 imams and others was being cited by high court judge and election commissioner Richard Mawrey, as one of the reasons that the 2014 re-election of Lutfur Rahman as mayor of Tower Hamlets should be voided, the Mayor removed from office and banned from being a candidate in future elections.
This letter, argued Mawrey, contravened the law against undue spiritual influence – a law unused and pretty much unheard of since the 19th century. It was first invented to stop the Irish working classes from falling under the influence of the Catholic church after the introduction of secret ballots (which meant that landowners could no longer control how their tenants were voting) and was bound up with a racist view of the Irish as stupid and with conspiracy theories about Catholicism as some alien power intent on taking over.
If the state goes down this road and removes one candidate for unfair religious interference then it should void all who gain religious support. Surely the UK State and its senior judiciary would not be party to such appalling double standards? It seems the answer is yes otherwise the result of the recent general election would have been declared void.
If ever there was a dodgy dossier it was Richard Mawrey's judgement to remove an elected Mayor from office. "Let justice be done though the heavens fall”, Mawrey declared as he delivered his ruling which voided Lutfur Rahman’s election as Mayor of Tower Hamlets on 22 May 2014. Why he's worried about the heavens he alone knows, when he's clearly been searching within the dung heap of English law to drag up such an antiquated and ridiculous law to justify the indefensible.
As Nadine El-Enany wrote shortly after the learned judge published his decision:
How can Muslims in Britain be expected to have faith in a legal system that produces a judgement such as this? She also accused Mawrey of racist reasoning and she is right. Would a fair minded individual have used a law to pass judgement which is steeped in racism and class prejudice? I think not. Only someone who possesses these characteristics could write in judgement the following drivel as Mawrey did on finding Rahman guilty of “undue spiritual influence".
Mawrey draws a comparison with the use of this law to overturn the votes of Irish Catholics in the 1800s:
“Time and again”, he says: it was stressed that the Catholic voters were men of simple faith, usually much less well educated than the clergy who were influencing them, and men whose natural instinct would be to obey the orders of their priests. This principle still holds good…. a distinction must be made between a sophisticated, highly educated and politically literate community and a community which is traditional, respectful of authority and, possibly, not fully integrated with the other communities living in the same area.
This type of class prejudiced and racist bigotry was made throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries by ruling class buffoons to deny the extension of the electoral franchise to working class men and all women.
If there were legal reasons for removing Lutfur Rahman from office then he should have been brought before a court of law, not some mockney tribunal. If not it's for the voters to decide who represents them not some tool of the ruling classes.
What I find interesting about Trupti Patel's call for support for the Tories, is no one in the media expressed shock or indeed abhorrence about her support for caste discrimination. A system in which millions of Hindu's are regarded quite literally as untouchables. People who can only be trusted to do the most menial jobs. Which in reality means class prejudice beyond the law. Is it any wonderful Cameron finds Trupti Patel such a comfy bedfellow.
If anyone feels I am being over sensitive about this, I would remind them and that wretched man judge Mawrey, 26 bishops of the Church of England sit in the House of Lords, the UK's second law making parliamentary chamber. Known as the Lords Spiritual, they read prayers at the start of each daily meeting and according to the Church's own web site they play a full and active role in the life and work of the Upper House.
So lets get things straight, Lutfur Rahman an elected Mayor of one of the most economically deprived boroughs in the United Kingdom can be removed from office under an ancient and discredited law, one of his alleged misdemeanours being guilty*of “undue spiritual influence. Yet not a hair is raised nor a media head turned when 26 unelected bishops sit in Parliament passing laws onto the statute book.
What a sorry excuse for a democracy the UK is, a nation in which unelected politicians and judges can make the laws and the democratic will of the people can be trampled upon.
Finally I would add this, in this case it makes no difference to me whatever Rahman's political persuasion is nor his religion, as what happened was plain wrong. He was removed from office for two reasons, 1/ He was a popular leftwing mayor who happened to be a Muslim and who refused to bow to the UK 'elites,' 2/ The overwhelming majority of those who voted for him are poor and the ruling classes concluded Lutfur and his supporters needed some manners put upon them.
* The letter by the 101 Imams and teachers to a local paper in Tower Hamlets that led to Mawrey's ill founded judgement hasn’t been widely published. There’s a reason why. The content of the letter is not religious, but about social justice and fighting discrimination. It can be read here.