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Tafazal Mohammed, Forward Thinking and the Pears Foundation

The JC today carries the following notice:

On 13 May 2011 we published articles which suggested that Tafazal Mohammed was a Jihadist who may have supported violent extremism.

We accept that this is not the case and that Mr Mohammed unequivocally condemns acts of violence, including the 7/7 bombings.

We are happy to put this right and apologise to him for any distress caused.

I remember this article. It relates to the following revelation in The Telegraph:

A man described as a suspected terrorist sympathiser closely linked to the July 7 bombers has worked for Scotland Yard and a string of councils to run training courses about “engaging” Muslim youths.

Tafazal Mohammad was described as an “individual of interest” by MI5 in 2001 when he attended a training camp with the bombings’ ringleader, Mohammed Sidique Khan.

Despite a host of links with the suicide attackers, Mohammad now promotes himself as a “professionally qualified youth and community worker” and has been paid thousands of pounds by organisations including the Metropolitan Police and Chester University.

His company, Muslim Youth Skills, charges up to £115 a head for its courses to “engage and empower hard-to-reach and marginalised groups”.

Mohammad, known as “Taf”, has never been accused of any terrorist offence but his close links with the bombers were repeatedly highlighted in the July 7 inquest, which on Friday concluded that the terroristsunlawfully killed 52 innocent people in London in 2005.

The 45-year-old was a trustee of a jihadist bookshop along with Khan, who bombed the Edgware Road train killing six, and Shehzad Tanweer, who murdered seven in the Aldgate explosion.

The coroner described him as a “suspected terrorist sympathiser” and said the bookshop was a haunt of “men with extremist views”.

There is a well-worth-reading article on the Beeston scene in Prospect, here.

The “jihadist bookshop” in question is Al Iqra. Here’s an Associated Press article which describes what went on there:

Gradually, Tafazil became more radicalized and aloof from his old Western-oriented crowd, said Ali. He grew a beard, became estranged from his wife and began allowing visiting Muslim speakers to use the shop the Iqra Learning Center for gatherings. The shelves increasingly included videos, DVDs and books outlining conspiracies against Muslims and denouncing the West.

“I remember telling him once, ‘This kind of stuff may get you in trouble if the police see it,’ ” said Ali. “He told me that I was weak.”

Ali said Tafazil also had some financial links to a storefront site known as the Hamara Youth Access Point, where the suspected bombers also were known to meet. Both the bookstore and youth site have been searched and sealed by police.

“They were always talking about the same thing: how the West is out to destroy Islam,” said Ali.

Here is a Times article covering the same ground:

Iqra was not just a bookshop. Over three floors, its back rooms included an internet suite, a prayer room, an office and a digital video-editing suite.

Every room breathed the Salafi jihadist creed. It was shouted by the radical websites, argued in the literature and proclaimed in the store’s collection of graphic videos and DVDs. That it was every Muslim’s duty to wage jihad was as unquestionable as the certainty that martyrdom was an honour to be sought. The group dynamic, the hiking and climbing trips, potholing and white-water rafting, tightened the bonds.

And all the while, well-intentioned public bodies were throwing money at the Iqra gang, whose projects included a school, a youth access venue and a gym. Grants totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds were made by the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and the local council, churches and charities.

Martin Gilbertson, an IT consultant, worked at Iqra for two years and innocently helped the charity to become increasingly sophisticated in its use of secure computer systems.

He left in 2004 and says that he tried to warn the police of the danger brewing, but was not interviewed by counter-terrorism detectives until 52 innocent people had been murdered in London. Mr Gilbertson told The Timesthat he had become sickened by the febrile atmosphere and the “racist rhetoric” about filthy kafirs (unbelievers), Jews and America and Britain.

Now, I can’t see what The JC wrote about Tafazal Mohammed. The article has gone: here are the dead links. It is possible that they extrapolated unfairly from this information and made a clear allegation of support for terrorism in the United Kingdom which could not be substantiated. I can’t even tell if Tafazal Mohammed threatened to sue The JC, although I suspect from the wording of the announcement, he did.

My experience of British libel law is this. The worse you behave, the greater opportunity you have for claiming that you’ve been horrendously libelled. If  you are a small publisher, you will usually be pushed to cut your losses and settle. That is what I think is likely to have happened here.

Is Tafazal Mohammed a jihadist who supports violent extremism? I cannot tell for sure. However, he does certainly appear to have been a trustee of a jihadist bookshop, whose ‘graduates’ included jihadists who murdered people in Britain. Looking at his Facebook page, Tafazal Mohammed also appears to be a fan of the banned hate preacher, Zakir Naik and the banned supporter of terrorism Yusuf Al Qaradawi:

He also likes Kalamullah, which is a website which hosts the writings and sells the books of the Al Qaeda preacher, Anwar Al Awlaki.

Of course, what caused the real stir back in May was not the naming of Tafazal Mohammed as an associate of the 7/7 Bombers – that was well known. Rather, it was the revelation that he was being promoted by a pro-Hamas outfit called Forward Thinking. Forward Thinking, so it turned out, was funded by the Pears Foundation, the family charitable trust of a very rich “Jewish philanthropist” called Trevor Pears.

Here is our coverage of Forward Thinking’s involvement, and the nature of this organisation.

Here is our coverage of the Pears Foundation story.

At the time, this was my reaction:

This looks like a cock up. The Pears Foundation supports liberal causes – which include projects aimed an enhancing links between British universities and Israel.

I understand that following the story, the many clients of the Pears Foundation went absolutely ballistic. Phone calls were made, articles were written, pressure was brought to bear, forelocks were tugged and so on. Because The Pears Foundation splashes cash around on so many good causes, it has a legion of supporters.

Dennis MacShane, formerly of Labour, felt as if he needed to retract his criticism of Forward Thinking when he discovered that Pears had funded it:

“I am very sorry that a statement attributed to me after I was told that an extremist Islamist jihadist had been invited to speak in the Commons has been used as an attack on the Pears Foundation as I have nothing but the highest regard and respect for Trevor Pears and consider his support for the campaign against anti-semitism to be important and vital.

“I gave a quote to a reporter across a bad mobile exchange on the Eurostar after I was assured that a known antisemitic jihadist had spoken in the Commons. I had no idea my brief quote which made no reference to the Pears Foundation would be used to blacken the name of a man I respect as much as anyone in Britain for his commitment to Jewish causes and in particular his generous support in different ways for the common struggle against contemporary antisemitism.”

Now, I’m still of the view that the Pears Foundation simply made a misjudgement, having perhaps been misadvised as to the nature of Forward Thinking. Nevertheless, the pathetic response of the Pears Foundation to a pretty mild criticism of a crassly stupid funding decision has certainly undermined my respect for the work it does.

In any event, the offending articles are now gone. I hope that the JC didn’t pay too much money to Tafazal Mohammed, who is clearly a wanker of the highest order.