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Birmingham Lord Mayor-elect joined anti-Prevent campaigners for photo-shoot

Birmingham Lord Mayor-elect joined anti-Prevent campaigners for photo-shoot

🕔26.Jan 2016

He has protested his innocence over a claim that he denounced Prevent as “racist”, but as this picture shows Cllr Muhammad Afzal was content to pose next to a banner condemning the Government-sponsored counter terrorism programme.

The photograph, with Cllr Afzal third from the left on the back row, was taken during a Stand up to Racism campaign meeting at which the Birmingham Lord Mayor-elect is alleged to have said that the Prevent initiative was “a disgraceful piece of legislation” which should be boycotted because it was targeting Muslim schoolchildren.

He was also reported to have questioned whether any British Muslims have gone to Syria to join ISIL, described David Cameron as an “Islamophobe” and called on MPs and the city council to boycott the Prevent initiative.

Chamberlain Files understands Cllr Afzal has told friends he did not see the banner when he agreed to pose for photographs.

A report of the meeting and his comments in the Birmingham Mail was condemned by Cllr Afzal who claimed the article had sensationalised what he said and had taken his remarks out of context.

Yesterday Cllr Afzal, who is chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque, issued a statement distancing himself from any anti-Prevent comments, although he did not deny using the words alleged in the newspaper article. He said:

There is no room in our city for extremism and I have already spoken to West Midlands Police to assure them of my support for their work, explaining that my comments were taken out of context and sensationalised.

He spoke out after facing criticism from city council leader John Clancy who reiterated his support and that of the council for Prevent, which seeks to root out extremism in classrooms and is being extended by Ofsted to take in Birmingham’s Islamic madrassa schools.

Cllr Afzal is said to have questioned claims by Downing Street that as many as 500 Britons have fled to Syria to join Isil terrorist forces. There was no evidence and in any case 500 was a very small proportion of the UK Muslim population.

Cllr Clancy made it clear he did not agree with the remarks attributed to Cllr Afzal and underlined his own personal commitment to the importance of Prevent in Birmingham. He regards the programme as vital to root out possible extremism in the classroom.

While it appears likely that Cllr Afzal will retain the confidence of the Labour group on the city council and duly become Lord Mayor in May, opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors are making it clear they will not support him.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jon Hunt pointed out that while the author of the Birmingham Mail article had complained about the story being “sensationalised” by the newsdesk, she did not say the quotes attributed to Cllr Afzal were inaccurate.

Pic courtesy of @THETRUTHWILLOU3

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