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Clancy tells Muhammad Afzal: ‘You can’t be Lord Mayor of Birmingham’

Clancy tells Muhammad Afzal: ‘You can’t be Lord Mayor of Birmingham’

🕔26.Jan 2016

Birmingham city council leader John Clancy has told Muhammad Afzal he cannot be Lord Mayor after he described the Prime Minister as an Islamophobe and said elements of the Government’s Prevent counter terror programme were racist.

Clancy acted swiftly this afternoon, ordering Afzal to a face to face meeting where he told him to consider his position and stand down.

The confrontation ended several days of claim and counter claim, with Cllr Afzal initially claiming an article in the Birmingham Mail had sensationalised his remarks and what he said had been taken out of context.

However, the newspaper today published an audio recording in which Cllr Afzal, who is chair of the Birmingham Central Mosque, can clearly be heard condemning Mr Cameron as an Islamophobe. The recording sealed Cllr Afzal’s fate.

While a final decision about the 2016-17 mayoral candidate rests with the Labour group, it is highly unlikely that a sufficient number of councillors will defy the council leader. It also became clear in the past 24 hours that Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors would vote against Cllr Afzal becoming Lord Mayor.

Cllr Clancy explained his decision in a statement:

I must stress that I do not agree with the comments, which in no way reflect the position of Birmingham City Council.

Having heard the recording I believe that although this is a matter for the Labour group, Cllr Afzal should reconsider his position as Lord Mayor elect. We have met to discuss the matter and I have made my personal position clear.

We continue to work closely with our communities across the city, with colleagues in West Midlands Police and at the Home Office to ensure that neither intolerance nor fanatical extremism has a place in Birmingham.

In fact, one of the first things I did as leader of the city council was to request a full counter-terrorism briefing from West Midlands Police and earlier this month I attended the Contest Board to discuss this important issue.

I also recently joined 60 of my fellow councillors for a Prevent briefing. That figure underlines the importance of this issue and there was a shared cross-party determination to fight intolerance and extremism of any kind.

While I can understand community concerns around the current media focus on Muslim communities and Prevent, I can assure you that our approach covers all forms of extremism.

I must stress that Cllr Afzal made the comments in his capacity as Chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque and was not speaking for Birmingham City Council.

Cllr Afzal is likely to be replaced as Lord Mayor by veteran Ladywood Labour councillor Carl Rice.

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