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School land discount' sale goes ahead after Islamophobe' row

PUBLISHED: 15:33 03 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:51 05 October 2010

Tory Opposition deputy leaderTim Archer was angered by the accusation levelled at him when he tried to block the sale of a Tower Hamlets council building to a private Muslim girls' school. He was challenged by the leader of MP George Galloway's Respect group on the council, Abjol Miah, at a meeting of the authority's scrutiny committee, demanding to know whether the Conservative front-bencher had "a problem" with Islamic education

By Ted Jeory

RELIGIOUS tensions erupted last night in London’s East End when a senior Tory councillor was accused of Islamophobia.’

Tory Opposition deputy leader Tim Archer was angered by the accusation levelled at him when he tried to block the sale of a Tower Hamlets council building to a private Muslim girls’ school.

He was challenged by the leader of MP George Galloway’s Respect group on the council, Abjol Miah, at a meeting of the authority’s scrutiny committee, demanding to know whether the Conservative front-bencher had “a problem” with Islamic education.

Miah questioned whether that was the real reason for Archer’s opposition to the controversial sale.

The exchange came as Archer tried to overturn a deal to sell the public’s freehold interest in the site in Whitechapel at a 24 per cent discount below market rates.

Labour leaders confirmed the price at their council cabinet meeting last month to honour a commitment made four years ago to sell the site to the Muslim school for £1.3 million—some £320,000 below the latest valuation.

That amounted to an unjustifiable taxpayer-funded subsidy to private education, the Conservative group argued.

“Madani is characterised by an Islamic ethos and geared to meet the need of one section of the community,” the group’s report to the committee said.

“It is exclusionary of the vast majority by virtue of sex, religion and race which we feel breaches the council’s One Tower Hamlets’ policy.”

It was these comments that sparked the row with Miah, who told Archer: “For you to stipulate the Islamic ethos in the UK is some kind of a problem—I won’t have that.”

He asked: “Do you think Muslim children should be able to be educated within their faith?”

Archer denied it was an attack on Muslim culture and replied: “I’m disappointed this has been portrayed as an attack on Islam—which it’s not.”

He was backed across the council chamber by two Labour committee members.

The Labour-controlled committee voted to rubber stamp’ the discount sale to Madani Girls’ school.

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