JUDGING by the photos posted on Facebook, an interfaith weekend
away between the Salvation Army and a group of Muslim community
activists in Stepney went excellently.
Staying at a Tudor manor in Suffolk, the men went riding and ate
together. Selfies, taken by a local councillor, Mahbub Alam, of the
group smiling for the camera were posted to Twitter.
But an Anglican rector in Stepney has accused the group of
wasting public funds; and, on the Facebook page of one of the
Muslim activists, a blogger reported finding a post that "saluted"
The trip, two weeks ago, was paid for by a £2000 grant from the
Near Neighbours fund, set up with £5 million from the Department
for Communities and Local Government and administered by the Church
Urban Fund (CUF).
The Rector of St Dunstan's, Stepney, the Revd Trevor Critchlow,
was consulted by the CUF after the group applied for a grant. He
said last week that he had told the CUF that it was a frivolous
waste of money, but thought nothing more of it until he saw
pictures from the trip appear online.
"They said they would go to an Outward Bound centre, but they
hadn't. It seemed to be much more luxurious," he said.
Then the journalist and blogger Ted Jeory reported that one of
the men on the weekend away, a friend of Mr Alam and a former
council candidate for his Tower Hamlets First party, Ahad Miah, had
an anti-Semitic image on Facebook which had appeared during last
summer's war in Gaza.
It was a picture of Adolf Hitler with the words "Let me salute
to Hitler The Great. He said: 'i would have killed all the jews of
the world, but i kept some to show the world why i killed
Mr Critchlow said that, while it was sometimes worthwhile to
engage people with extreme views in dialogue, the weekend away -
particularly as it included people such as Mr Miah - was a mistake.
"I think there is a point where some of these views are so
abhorrent that it makes any kind of conversation quite difficult,"
"I'm up for meeting people over a cup of tea about why they hold
these views . . . but I do object to them going away for a
A Salvation Army leader in Stepney, Captain Nick Coke, declined
to comment, but Canon Paul Hackwood, who chairs the CUF, defended
the weekend away.
"I think spending some money on quality relationship-building is
necessary, provided they are not in five-star accommodation, which
they weren't," he said. "I don't think it was a jolly. They cooked
their own food, and there weren't enough beds; so some slept on the
He said that Mr Miah had signed up for the trip on the last day;
so the Salvation Army could not do the "normal checks". But he did
say that it was regrettable that a person apparently with such
anti-Semitic views had been funded by Near Neighbours to go away
for a weekend.
After Mr Jeory highlighted the Facebook post praising Hitler, Mr
Miah deleted the image, and posted a statement on his account
denying that it had been put online by him, and appearing to
suggest that his account had been hacked.
"My Facebook account access was closed for several weeks until
recently when I finally got access," he wrote. "I am not a highly
computer literate person but I do NOT agree anything in that
message that was circulated."
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets and leader of the Tower Hamlets First
party, Lutfur Rahman, also released a statement demanding that Mr
Miah remove the "offensive post". Mr Rahman has since been removed
from office for electoral fraud and corruption.
In a separate statement, Canon Hackwood said that Near
Neighbours had also funded a great deal of work combating
anti-Semitism in the East End, and that the CUF abhorred and always