- Corbyn spoke at meeting staged by the Muslim Engagement and Development
- Group have been accused of being ‘Islamists masquerading as civil libertarians’
- Corbyn refused to attend a gala marking centenary of the Balfour Declaration
Published: 19:59 EDT, 2 November 2017 | Updated: 20:02 EDT, 2 November 2017
Jeremy Corbyn was accused of cosying up to extremists last night after attending an event held by a hardline Muslim group accused of anti-Semitism.
The Labour leader spoke at a Commons meeting staged by an organisation that attacks Israeli ‘Zionists’ on social media.
He addressed the Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) event on Wednesday – but last night snubbed a formal dinner with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of cosying up to extremists after attending an event held by a hardline Muslim group, Mend
Mend was this week accused of being ‘Islamists masquerading as civil libertarians’ whose senior figures have publicly expressed anti-Semitic views.
A report by the Henry Jackson Society think-tank said the organisation was an ‘extremist-linked group’ that has hosted ‘illiberal, intolerant and extremist Islamist speakers’.
Mend, which has been accused by the Muslim Council of Britain of organising boycotts of Holocaust Memorial Day, arranged the Commons event to mark the start of Islamophobia Awareness Month.
Mr Corbyn told the audience: ‘Our future lies in mutual respect between all communities.’
Referring to the terror attack outside Finsbury Park Mosque in his Islington constituency in the summer, the Labour leader added: ‘An attack on any one of us is an attack on all of us.’
But his appearance fuelled criticism after he refused to attend a gala last night to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which helped pave the way for the creation of Israel.
Theresa May and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd right) at the Balfour 100 Dinner at Lancaster House in London
Former communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles called his snub ‘a slap in the face of Israel, and of all British Jewish citizens of the United Kingdom’.
He said: ‘To not make a dinner is perhaps excusable but to attend a meeting of extremists who are vowed to destroy Israel is contemptible.’
Tory MP Philip Davies added: ‘During the election Jeremy Corbyn said his links to violent extremism, such as to the IRA and to Hamas, was a thing of the past.
'We can now see that this is not historical at all. His addiction to hardline extremists continues to this day.’
Tom Wilson, of the Henry Jackson Society, said: Public figures and elected officials agreeing to speak at Mend’s events should be aware that this is an organisation which has hosted preachers known for their extremist and intolerant views.
'That is who they are aligning themselves with.’
Jennifer Gerber, of Labour Friends of Israel, said it was ‘utterly unacceptable’ for the Labour politician to attend an event organised by a group that has repeatedly peddled myths about the ‘Israeli lobby’.
Four MPs – Tories Crispin Blunt and Anna Soubry, Lib Dem Sir Ed Davey and the SNP’s Joanna Cherry – were all due to attend Mend’s event but pulled out. They claimed there was ‘controversy’ over the group’s record.
Former communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles called his snub ‘a slap in the face of Israel, and of all British Jewish citizens of the United Kingdom’
At least six Labour MPs – including Wes Streeting, Stephen Kinnock and Naz Shah – turned up.
Labour has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism within the party. Ken Livingstone was suspended for saying Hitler was an early supporter of Zionism, while anti-Semitic remarks were made at a fringe event at Labour’s party conference last month.
Mr Corbyn, a supporter of the Palestinian cause, has faced repeated questions about his association with IRA figures.
Mend said the think-tank report ‘equates political dissent with extremism’. A statement said it ‘operates in the mainstream of British society’ and that many of the claims in the report are ‘based on innuendo and false assertions’.
The group also said it ‘unequivocally rejects’ allegations of anti-Semitism, homophobia, or extremism.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said the Labour leader was ‘pleased to attend an event to mark the start of Islamophobia Awareness Month’.
MEND: Group linked to anti-Semitic speakers
The Muslim group that staged a rally in Parliament at which Jeremy Corbyn spoke has worrying links with extremism.
The organisation, Muslim Engagement and Development, claims it champions Muslim involvement in public and political life while campaigning against Islamophobia.
But the Islamist group has been associated with a number of extremist statements, including links to speakers who have promoted jihad, anti-Semitism and homophobia.
Officials and volunteers with Mend have also supported the killing of British troops in Iraq.
It is also claimed to want to stir up trouble over the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot four years ago when Ofsted inspectors uncovered a campaign by hardline Muslims to take over schools in Birmingham and alter their ‘character and ethos’.
A report released last month by the Henry Jackson Society security think-tank argued that Mend were ‘Islamists masquerading as civil libertarians’.
Mend was previously known as iEngage. Its boss Azad Ali, lost a libel case against the Daily Mail in January 2010 after he was described as a ‘hardline Islamic extremist who supports the killing of British and American soldiers in Iraq’.
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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania
A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.
Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.
The other driver involved was not hurt.
Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.
The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.
“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.
“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”
Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.
Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.
Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.
Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.
In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.
Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.
Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos
Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.
Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.
While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.
“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.
A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.
Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.
“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.
He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.
“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”
The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.
“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.
Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.
On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.
Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.
But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.
Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.
“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”
The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.
The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.
“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.
The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.
Grace Tame says caller ‘threatened’ against criticising PM
An Australian of the Year and sexual abuse survivor has said she received a “threatening” call warning her not to criticise the prime minister.
Grace Tame made the allegation in a speech on Wednesday, where she said she’d been called by a “senior member of a government-funded organisation”.
She added she was asked to promise not to say anything “damning” about Scott Morrison.
The government has denied knowledge of the call and said it will investigate.
On Tuesday, Mr Morrison made a formal apology to former political staffer Brittany Higgins more than a year after the young woman went public with the allegation that she had been raped by a male colleague in a ministerial office.
Her story sparked national anger, and an inquiry into parliament’s culture which found more than a third of workers had been sexually harassed.
Both Ms Higgins and Ms Tame have been heralded this past year for prompting a national conversation about abuse, power and gender inequality.
On Wednesday, the pair delivered a highly anticipated joint address at the National Press Club in Canberra.
Asked by journalists if she could name the threatening caller and their organisation, Ms Tame said: “if I was willing to name either, I would have put them in the speech”.
But she said the caller had been concerned about what she would say on the evening her successor as Australian of the Year was named.
She said the caller had described her as an “influential figure” and that Mr Morrison would “have a fear” about what she might say “with an election coming soon”. Australia is due to hold a general election before 21 May.
“Sound familiar to anyone? Well, it does to me,” Ms Tame said, before drawing a comparison with her former abuser – a teacher who had raped her as a child and pressured her to stay silent.
Mr Morrison’s office said it had not been aware of the call before Ms Tame’s speech, adding “the individual should apologise”.
“The PM and the government consider the actions and statements of the individual as unacceptable,” a spokesperson said.
But Ms Tame said launching a probe “misses the point entirely”.
“Stop deflecting, Scott. It’s not about the person who made the call. It’s the fact they felt like they had to do it at all,” she tweeted.
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