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Downing Street Backtracks on Appointing its Chosen Anti-Muslim Hatred Advisor Who Suppressed Conservative Neo-Nazi Ties – After Byline Times’ Inquiries

Nafeez Ahmed reveals the inside story of how Tell MAMA founder, Fiyaz Mughal, suppressed an investigation into Conservative links with the far-right in Europe

Fiyaz Mughal in 2019. Photo: Stephen Bell/Alamy

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The Government abruptly reversed plans to appoint a former government-funded contractor as a new Independent Advisor on Anti-Muslim Hatred after receiving notice of a Byline Times investigation exposing how he shielded Conservatives from scrutiny over ties to racist far-right extremists.

Senior ministers in Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet planned to announce the appointment of Fiyaz Mughal, founder and former director of Tell MAMA (‘Measuring Anti Muslim Attacks’) on Monday.

The organisation has received a total of £7 million in funding from the Government since 2012.

However, high-level sources confirmed to Byline Times that Downing Street suddenly cancelled Mughal’s appointment following this newspaper’s inquiries to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

On Friday 8 March, the Government was given the opportunity to comment on Byline Times’ story that Mughal had suppressed a Tell MAMA-funded report exposing Conservative Party relationships with anti-Muslim and antisemitic political parties tied to neo-Nazi networks.

Later that day, a Government spokesperson responded with the following statement: “I would point you back to the minister’s words in the House: ‘We plan to appoint a new independent advisor on anti-Muslim hatred, and we will update the House shortly’.”

But, approximately an hour after sending this statement, Downing Street blocked Mughal’s appointment, Byline Times can exclusively reveal.

Sources confirm that No. 10 was “desperately scrambling” to shortlist more credible alternative candidates for the appointment that could be announced at short notice in advance of a raft of other announcements on extremism targeted largely at Muslim communities and anti-war protestors.

Although on Friday Downing Street was adamant that it could not appoint Mughal, sources told Byline Times that it is not clear whether the role will be replaced and, if so, who with.

This evening, the Daily Mail reported that Mughal quit the role before it had started because of “attacks from both the far-right and Islamists”. The newspaper said it was an “embarrassing blow for Communities Secretary Michael Gove”.


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Mughal was due to replace a role previously played by Imam Qari Asim, who in 2019 was appointed by the Government as an Independent Advisor on tackling Islamophobia. Asim was removed from that position in 2022 without being replaced.

“I was neither given an office nor any resources to undertake any work to define Islamophobia,” Asim told Byline Times. “I couldn’t even get the terms of reference for my work from the Government.

“I was very clear that Islamophobia is not about sanctioning any critique of the faith Islam, but rather about protecting Muslims who are intimidated, discriminated, abused and even assaulted, simply because of their faith.”

An Alarming Investigation

In 2012, Fiyaz Mughal founded and launched Tell MAMA as a project run by his other organisation, Faith Matters, which is registered as a community interest company. Both projects have received funding from the Government.

Since 2012, Tell MAMA has received more than £6 million from the Government. It is receiving an extra £1 million this year.

From 2016 to 2018, it received more than £225,000 from the Home Office’s ‘Building a Stronger Britain Together’ programme run by the Office for Counter Extremism.

In February 2016, on behalf of Tell MAMA, Mughal used some of this funding to commission me to conduct an investigation into far-right movements in the UK and Europe involved in anti-Muslim hatred. The Tell MAMA-funded investigation was due to be published as a four-part series on its website.

I delivered the 15,000-word draft report of the investigation in May 2016. The material was subsequently edited and reviewed by Tell MAMA staff and Mughal agreed that the series would be published both online and as a single report which could be sent to the media.

I was so alarmed by my findings that when I had submitted the first draft to Tell MAMA, I had suggested we work to ensure that Muslim and Jewish communities were brought together to understand how the mainstreaming of the far-right is endangering both.

“I think the Board of Jewish Deputies and Community Security Trust, as well as relevant agencies in the US and EU, would be keenly interested in (and rightly alarmed by) these findings,” I wrote to Mughal.

In an email on 11 May, he wrote: “Brilliant on all counts Nafeez – we also want to do more with you in the future if that is okay – but let’s make this a huge bang and I will also send you a press hook for you to feed into so that we can get to nationals.”

My findings were shocking.

By tracing the trans-Atlantic connections and historical heritage of far-right political parties across Europe, I discovered that the vast majority of parties rising up in the polls had explicit Nazi sympathies and affiliations, and often even little-understood Nazi heritage.

Many of these parties campaigned on a footing of loudly denouncing antisemitism and publicly distancing themselves from Nazism. Yet my investigation had exposed their direct ties with active neo-Nazi networks.

These were political parties that were becoming increasingly mainstream – including the German AfD, the Austrian FPO, Geert Wilders’ PVV, the Belgian Vlaams Belang (VB) Party, the Danish Peoples Party (DPP), Le Pen’s NF, Nigel Farage’s UKIP, and the True Finns (PS).

Other political parties with Nazi heritage or sympathies my investigation exposed, including Holocaust denial and antisemitism, were Lega Nord in Italy, MS5 in Italy, the Sweden Democrats, the Czech Party of Free Citizens, and Poland’s Congress of the New Right.

Many of these political parties were, however, increasingly engaged in anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice. My investigation showed that these political networks were making deliberate efforts to rebrand themselves by distancing from their Nazi heritage. They wanted to rehabilitate their influence on the centre-right.


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The Striking Omission

On 7 June 2016, Mughal emailed me asking if we could meet me in person. A final version of my report had been edited and approved by Tell MAMA staff. We met at King’s Cross station a few days later.

After congratulating me again on the investigation, Mughal’s enthusiasm for the project appeared to have dipped. He did not want to publish the second part of the series titled “The Conservative Party aided and abetted German fascists with Nazi roots”.

Mughal explained to me that it wasn’t because he didn’t believe the findings were not accurate or important. He said that if Tell MAMA published them, it would create serious problems for his relationship with the Government and the organisation’s funding.

His solution was for Tell MAMA to publish the series except the section highlighting Conservative far-right ties.

Meanwhile, my own platform, INSURGE intelligence, could publish the entire investigation with an acknowledgement of Tell MAMA’s role in commissioning the project.

Mughal insisted that he was fully behind the project and we discussed a full report launch in Parliament as well as a social media campaign to raise awareness. I had little choice but to agree and did not feel I couldn force him to publish the material on the Conservative Party.

Mere weeks later, on 16 June, Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a far-right activist who had been a long time supporter of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Cox had been due to launch Tell MAMA’s annual report in Parliament later that month.

Conservatives and the Far-Right

Four days later, on 20 June, my full Tell MAMA reportReturn of the Reich: Mapping the Global Resurgence of Far Right Power – was published on INSURGE with a dedication to Jo Cox and her family, approved by Fiyaz Mughal. Simultaneously, Tell MAMA published part one of the investigation on its website.

But ultimately, Tell MAMA not only refused to publish the section identifying the Conservative Party’s ties to neo-Nazi networks in Germany, it also failed to publish the entirety of the rest of my report mapping out the anti-Muslim, neo-Nazi and antisemitic sympathies of wider far-right groups across Europe – many of whom were working directly with the Conservative Party and right-wing groups in the US who supported Donald Trump.

The sections of my investigation suppressed by Tell MAMA demonstrated that the Conservative Party was working closely with a number of far-right parties in Europe harbouring the same toxic ideology that had inspired Jo Cox’s murderer.

The Conservative Party was leading the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) bloc of political parties in the European Parliament. But working under it at that time were three parties each with direct ties to racist and neo-Nazi groups: the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Danish People’s Party (DPP), and the True Finns which later rebranded as the Finns Party.

My investigation documented how the AfD was not merely an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party – but one with direct Nazi heritage.

Several AfD founders and leaders, my investigation revealed, were associates of Alfred Dregger – a Nazi military veteran who, despite renouncing his membership of the Nazi Party, would go on to campaign for the release of Nazi war criminal Ferdinand Hugo aus der Fünten.

Also during the Conservative leadership of the ECR, the AfD partnered with Pegida – the far-right street protest movement, the main organisers of which were neo-Nazis including convicted terrorists.

But it wasn’t just the AfD.

From 2014 to 2016, the vice chair and chief whip of the ECR, then working closely with Conservative MEPs Syed Kamall and Daniel Hannan, was Morten Messerschmidt of the Danish People’s Party.

Messerschmidt was a convicted racist. The year he won his seat in the European Parliament, he conducted an interview with notorious hate blog Gates of Vienna, which has been described by British MPs as “a training manual for anti-Muslim paramilitaries”.

Among the Gates of Vienna’s posts are detailed prescriptions for anti-Muslim paramilitary operations during a race war within Europe between Muslims and their neighbours, and even “a guide to amateur bomb-making”.

In 2015, anti-fascist charity Hope Not Hate found alarming evidence that the Gates of Vienna blog was linked to a far-right plot to “incite a violent backlash from British Muslims, leading to serious disorder between Muslim and non-Muslim communities”.

No wonder the convicted neo-Nazi terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who massacred 77 people in July 2011, cited the Gates of Vienna blog 86 times in his manifesto.

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Messerschmidt was not an aberration in his party. In 1997, then DPP leader Pia Kjærsgaard (who in 2013 became the party’s official “values” spokesperson), told a party annual meeting: “In the Danish People’s Party, we do not hide the fact we are against having Denmark turned into a multi-ethnic society.”

Another prominent colleague of the Conservative Party in the ECR since 2014 was Jussi Halla-aho, a Finns Party MEP who, like Messerschmidt, is also a convicted racist. He had distinguished himself in Finland by using his personal blog to wish “rape on ‘green-left’ women”, describe Islam as a “paedophile religion”, and advocate violence as “a very undervalued method of solving problems”.

At the time of my report, he was also a member of Suomen Sisu (‘Finnish Power’), the founding policy statement of which advocated a white supremacist ideology comparable to that of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party: “Peoples of different nationalities shouldn’t be mixed to destroy historically developed cultures by replacing them with a global subculture.”

Halla-aho was not alone. Three other Finns Party MPs were members of Suomen Sisu, described by Finnish newspaper Länsiväylä as a “Nazi spirited” organisation.

My investigation further documented evidence of the Finns Party’s alliance with other neo-Nazi groups, such as the Finnish National Resistance Front.

Another vice chair of the ECR working with under the Conservative Party from 2014 was Independent Greeks MEP Notis Marias. The Independent Greeks had a track record of grotesque antisemitism during his tenure.

In December 2014, for instance, the party’s founding leader blamed the country’s chronic tax evasion problem on “the Jews”. In August that year, Marias also backed a notorious joint initiative with the Italian Five Star Movement calling for the children of immigrants to be denied citizenship – a proposal also supported by Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.

The Home Office Intervention

Tell MAMA did not publish, amplify or campaign on any of the findings revealed in my investigation, which it had commissioned. There was no report launch, no social media campaign, and no press coverage.

On 1 August 2016, I received a phone call from a furious Fiyaz Mughal.

He said he had just spoken to Sabin Khan, who was then the Deputy Director of the Research, Information and Communications Unit in the Home Office’s Organisation for Security and Counter-Terrorism.

Mughal said that Khan had threatened to cut off the Home Office’s funding to Tell MAMA due to the fact that it was working with me. She had specifically mentioned that my work was critical of the Government’s counter-extremism Prevent strategy. If Mughal continued to work with me, he had been told, it would not just be Home Office funding that was withdrawn, but funding from departments across government.

The next day, I wrote directly to Khan about these threats and my apparent blacklisting by the Government.

“I recently reported… on the Home Secretary’s alarming links with the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), whose associate director, Douglas Murray, is an extremist who has said some absolutely appalling things about Muslims verging on open racism,” I wrote. “As a consequence of my reporting, Amber Rudd disassociated herself from HJS for the first time in years. Is it the case that the Government wants Tell MAMA to disassociate itself from me because of my critical journalism exposing government policy failures?

“I am particularly alarmed by the Government’s seeming lack of interest in the content of my work for Tell MAMA… [which] demonstrates a direct correlation between the rise of anti-Muslim hatred and antisemitic bigotry, as a result of an unprecedented resurgence of political groups with neo-Nazi heritage and affiliations.

“Part of my findings include alarming evidence that many of these neo-Nazi parties have indeed been courted and had direct affiliations to the Conservative Party, through various groups in the European Parliament. Is the Home Office’s concern for Tell MAMA’s relationship with me related to the fact that my Tell MAMA report documented in some detail disturbing connections between far-right extremists and the British Government?”

Khan replied to my email five days later, copying in her superior, Peter Wilson. She did not deny any of Mughal’s allegations.

“I can assure you that your mail has received my full attention,” she wrote. “However, you will understand that my conversation with Mr Mughal was a private one and you will appreciate that I cannot comment on such a conversation. In the circumstances I cannot say anymore.”

On 29 November that year, I made a formal complaint to the Home Office. The Home Office breached its own complaints procedure and did not even acknowledge, let alone respond, to my complaint. This was despite its commitment to responding within 20 working days or providing an explanation if a complaint is not upheld.

Apparently in compliance with Khan’s demand, Tell MAMA did not commission me again.

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‘A Rubber-Stamp Exercise’

In 2019, after 14 Conservative members were suspended due to anti-Muslim bigotry, Fiyaz Mughal did eventually ‘speak out’. He wrote an op-ed in the Guardian describing how he had met senior Tory leaders and found most of them receptive to the idea of taking action internally, but that they were reluctant to “ask for help” – which he was offering in the form of “support, training and systems tests”.

Conspicuously missing from his article was any mention of the findings of the Tell MAMA investigation that his organisation had commissioned and funded in 2016, demonstrating that the Conservative Party’s problem with racist, anti-Muslim and antisemitic bigotry went far deeper than he was willing to acknowledge.

The Government’s recent plan – aborted at the last minute – to appoint Fiyaz Mughal as its point-man on anti-Muslim bigotry raises a simple issue.

This is a man who quashed the most critical findings of his organisation’s own investigation into the Conservative Party’s ties with some of the most virulent anti-Muslim and antisemitic political networks in Europe. He apparently did so over fears of repercussions for his own organisation – fears which turned out not to be unfounded.

Since then, he has continued to maintain a staunch silence on how the Conservative Party fostered in the European Parliament racist politicians with live relationships with neo-Nazis.

Imam Qari Asim, who previously held the role of Independent Advisor to tackle Islamophobia, told Byline Times: “Anyone appointed by the Government to define Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hatred must be impartial, credible and grounded in Muslim communities. Any work done to define ‘anti-Muslim hatred’ must build on the work already undertaken. It must have broad consensus amongst British Muslims. Any such work must not be seen as a rubber-stamp exercise to push certain views held by a small group of people in political corridors.”

Fiyaz Mughal, Tell MAMA, and Downing Street did not respond to Byline Times’ requests for comment.

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