Saturday, 6 December 2014

UAF, Unions & Labour in Portsmouth and their links to a convicted ISIS terrorist

Regular readers may recall that earlier this week we looked at Unite Against Fascism's thinly disguised 'anti-UKIP coalition' in Portsmouth which largely comprised people who stood to lose financially in the event of further UKIP advances: Labour and Lib Dem politicians, trade union activists who haven't had a proper job in years and 'community activists' who have long been supported on the Council payroll while genuine public services went down the toilet.

You may recall that we mentioned Zuber Hatia, who is invariably described as 'a prominent figure in Portsmouth's Muslim community and a community activist' in newspaper reports covering UAF's demonstrations in the south coast city - a helpful description which makes it sound like the Muslim community is steadfastly behind UAF's efforts.
Zuber Hatia urging attendance at a UAF event on the
Portsmouth UAF Facebook page

The truth is rather different. For a start, Hatia is a member of the local UAF branch, and has helped
with the organisation of events in the past: the screen grab shows Hatia talking about 'we STILL need' and 'more of us' as he exhorts people to sign up for a UAF march in Portsmouth last month on the event page.

All of this begs the question 'to what extent is Hatia representative  of the local Muslim community'? While genuine Muslim community leaders in Portsmouth such as Abu-Suyeb Tanzam condemned the young men who had travelled to Syria and said, "If anyone belongs to those groups they should be punished’, Hatia was nowhere to be seen or quoted, certainly not in the local newspapers. When news broke that 6 men from Portsmouth had travelled to Syria in November 2013, the Portsmouth News ran an article entitled 'City's Muslim leaders condemn Syria fighters'. The article named the leaders, and said,

"Speaking yesterday, leaders from the city’s Jami Mosque said the men had made the journey without the knowledge of their parents, the mosque, and the Muslim community.
Jami Mosque committee members Abidur Rahman Chowdhury, Mosud Ahmed, Aziz ur Rahman, Abu-Suyeb Tanzam and chairman Abdul Jalil said the mosque has been working with the police after it emerged the group of men had made the journey.’

The advert for the 'Stand up to UKIP' rally - all allegedly
knew convicted ISIS terrorist Mashadur Choudhary
You will note that Hatia is not mentioned in the article despite being a self-proclaimed 'prominent figure in Portsmouth's Muslim community and community activist'. He is not mentioned in another article on the 29th October this year 'Leaders condemn those radicalising young Muslims' either. In an article in the Guardian, local mosque leaders said,

"Choudhury had been under pressure from within his community because he was being blamed for encouraging the group to travel to Syria. Leaders of the Jami mosque in the city feared that as Choudhury was a youth worker, his actions might overly influence vulnerable young people."

So what did Zuber Hatia have to say about Mashadur Choudhary, the man sentenced to 4 years yesterday for travelling to Syria to fight for ISIS? In May this year, he was complaining on Facebook - reposted on the 'Portsmouth Anti-Fascists' blog - about how unfair Choudhary's conviction was as he hadn't done anything:

"There is no reason to assume that with such convictions in British courts as Mashudur Choudhary’s – who clearly went to Syria as plenty others have done so and who clearly did not join any combatant group and returned back to the UK having committed no crime, either abroad or here"

Hatia - knew Choudhary
through 'community
In other words, in spite of long-standing fears amongst genuine leaders of the Muslim community in Portsmouth that Choudhary was radicalising young men with a view to encouraging them to join ISIS, Hatia feels he 'has committed no crime'. We have spent some time attempting to find anyone in the Portsmouth Muslim community who agrees with Hatia, but without success. His view is emphatically not representative of the local mosque or the local Muslim community, and it is clear that while he is prominent, he is hardly an acknowledged mouthpiece for anything or anybody other than the hard left.

So what of his links to Mashadur Choudhary? Choudhary had worked previously as a racial harassment case worker for the local authority, which regularly brought him into contact with Hatia's self-appointed status as a 'community activist'. Sources in the Portsmouth Muslim community tell us that Hatia and Choudhary were 'not close, but knew each other fairly well and worked together on various causes'.

Woods - knew Choudhary through
union activities
So what of the other UAF people involved in the 'Stand up to UKIP' event?  Choudhary was a trade union member, which brought him into personal contact with Portsmouth Trades Council president and UAF activist Jon Woods, the organiser of last weeks anti-UKIP protest and the local chairman of UNISON, the union to which Choudhary belonged. A UNISON member in Portsmouth who didn't wish to be named because of career repercussions accused Woods of 'cosying up to the most radical views he could find' and said Woods 'had no wish to be associated with Choudhary now, but didn't have that problem when he thought that Choudhary could help sign up new members to Woods' various causes a few years ago'. Woods is also the Portsmouth North PPC for the TUSC, and previously was closely associated with the SWP in Portsmouth.

Labour PPC Sue Castillon - knew
Choudhary through youth work
in Portsmouth
Finally, of the advertised speakers, we have Sue Castillon, Labour's PPC for Portsmouth North and a Hope not Hate activist. Castillon previously ran two youth schemes in Portsmouth which brought her into frequent contact with Choudhary during his time as a council youth worker. At least 2 of the other Portsmouth men who travelled to Syria to join ISIS may have been known to her, according to our source. Using the Twitter handle @eurosue, she has also frequently shared a platform with both Woods and Hatia as part of their anti-UKIP campaign.

A final twist of irony is that for 6 months, Choudhary was employed as an outreach worker as part of the government's 'Prevent' strategy designed to halt the radicalisation of young Muslims by groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS. Choudhary, who is in his 30's, travelled to Syria with a group of young Muslims who, according to media reports, he had encouraged to sign up with ISIS and travel to Syria. His secondment to the Prevent group was organised by the then Liberal Democrat controlled Portsmouth City Council. Former Lib Dem council leader and Portsmouth South PPC Cllr Gordon Vernon-Jackson also attended the launch of the anti-UKIP group.

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