Prominent Muslim organisations and individuals have pledged to back Ken Livingstone as mayor of London, saying it is in the “best interest” of Muslims to vote for him in this year’s elections on May 1.
A statement, published today in full on the Guardian’s website, praises Livingstone for his continued support of a multicultural society and for protecting Muslim communities against racism and Islamophobia. The 63 signatories include Mohammed Ali, the chief executive of the Islam Channel, which claims to have an audience of millions, Professor Tariq Ramadan and Dilwar Hussain from the London Muslim Centre, part of the East London Mosque.
His rival, Conservative candidate Boris Johnson, said he was “not remotely worried” by the statement of support and warned against “divide and rule” politics. “When anything is signed by so-called community leaders I take it with a big pinch of salt,” he said. “My grandfather was a Muslim and so was my great-grandfather. I am proud of my Muslim ancestry.”
This would be the same Boris Johnson who described Islam as “the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers” and asserted that “to any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia – fear of Islam – seems a natural reaction”. Opposing the illegalisation of incitement to religious hatred Johnson stated that such a law “makes no sense unless it involves a ban on the Koran itself”.
When he was editor of the Spectator Johnson regularly published appalling examples of anti-Muslim bigotry by the likes of Rod Liddle and Anthony Browne, while the magazine’s front cover featured headlines such as “Eurabian Nightmare” and “The Muslims are Coming“.
Update: See also the discussion on the Stormfront fascist forum. Sample comments: “Another reason why Ken must go at all costs. Vote BNP if you don’t want the whole of London and Britain, turning into the ape and reptile enclosures of London Zoo!” “People have got to wake up when muslims, the most unwestern group of people imaginable are fully supporting Livingstone.” “Boris will get my 2nd preference vote. I think Boris will get a hugh [sic] anti-Ken Livingstone vote.”
Read the official BNP response here.
Further update: Scroll down to the bottom of the comments on the Guardian website and you’ll find the following statement by Comment is Free editor Georgina Henry:
“Sorry, but we’re closing this thread due to the continual breaches of the talk policy. Our moderators have had to take down almost 40 offensive comments, and banned 16 people. It’s incredibly depressing that so many pieces on this site written by or about Muslims degenerate into racist/sectarian abuse.”