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Town Hall chief faces email hate campaign over Ramadan fast plea

PUBLISHED: 19:31 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 05 October 2010

POLICE in East London are investigating death threats in dozens of hate mail letters sent to Town Hall chiefs over the Ramadan fasting rules row at Tower Hamlets council. Anonymous letters—including many from abroad and some implying death threats—have been sent to John Williams, the council's head of democratic services

Ted Jeory

POLICE in East London are investigating death threats in dozens of hate mail letters sent to Town Hall chiefs over the Ramadan fasting rules row at Tower Hamlets council.

Anonymous letters—including many from abroad and some implying death threats—have been sent to John Williams, the council’s head of democratic services.

It was his email which sparked the row last month when he appeared to ask non-Muslim councillors to refrain from eating during meetings in September until the breaking of the Muslim fast at sunset.

Council bosses have since admitted the email was misleading and it should have been better worded to reflect the underlying request that non-Muslim councillors do not eat special Iftar fast-breaking food set out for Muslims.

Many fasting councillors last year were upset to find that their tastier food had already been eaten by hungry and greedy non-Muslim colleagues.

But as confusion reined at the Town Hall over how best to clarify the misunderstanding, the world’s press latched on to the East London Advertiser’s story.

The issue was then picked up by Islamophobic extremists who directed their hatred at Mr Williams personally.

The council’s press office was bombarded by emails. Many handwritten letters were also sent by post to him directly.

Police collected a huge pile of letters and envelopes from the Town Hall this week and now all 51 councillors have been asked to be alert.

An official Town Hall email sent to them said: “I have been asked to contact you with regards to a police matter.

“At the Town Hall we have recently received some very unpleasant correspondence. This has been passed along to the police.

“If you receive any similar correspondence that you do not open it, put it in a plastic wallet or zip lock bag and pass it to me.

“The correspondence that we have received thus far had a postmark from France, and had a handwritten address on a plain white envelope.”

Council leader Lutfur Rahman had also ordered committee meetings be kept to a minimum this month during Ramadan.

Seven meetings had originally been scheduled—at least half the normal monthly number—but that figure has now been trimmed to six.

Backbench councillors receive a basic £10,000 a year allowance for their duties.

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