Peterborough Conservatives criticised by Jewish group for ‘lack of contrition’ over alleged antisemitism
The Conservatives in Peterborough have been criticised for a “lack of contrition” over alleged antisemitism by a leading Jewish group following a number of Facebook posts from some of its members.
The Jewish Leadership Council said it was ‘extremely concerned’ after being shown comments made by a sitting Conservative councillor and two former electoral candidates for the party, including one which promoted material from a ‘hate preacher’ who has defended Osama Bin Laden.
The JLC - an umbrella network for dozens of Jewish organisations - believes there is a “specific and identifiable problem in Peterborough politics that needs to be resolved,” while it urged the Tories to “suspend the members involved and investigate further”.
Peterborough Conservatives said they “utterly reject antisemitism” and attacked Labour’s record on the issue when approached by the Peterborough Telegraph, but its overall response was criticised by the JLC which said it “lacks any contrition or apology from the candidates in question”.
The most controversial of the posts - some of which go back several years - was from Cllr Mohammed Nadeem, member for North ward on Peterborough City Council.
In October 2015 Cllr Nadeem, who is not seeking re-election in May’s local elections, promoted a speech from Zakir Naik who was banned from entering the UK in 2010 and was described as a hate preacher by former Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Naik has caused controversy for refusing to condemn Bin Laden and for declaring the September 11 terrorist attacks were an “inside job”.
Cllr Nadeem shared a speech from Mr Naik on the Islamic preacher’s TV station Peace TV, calling it “eye-opening” and asking people to “watch and listen carefully”.
A screenshot of the post shows the speech referred to “259 terrorist attacks conducted by Jewish terrorists” from 1941 to 1948.
The Conservatives said Cllr Nadeem “neither promotes nor endorses such views”.
The party was also asked to comment on Facebook posts from two former city council candidates - Muhammad Ikram and Haq Nawaz.
Mr Ikram, who last stood for the party when he contested the vacant East ward seat in 2019, shared an article which accused Israel of promoting a ‘Final Solution’ for Gaza while describing its politicians as being “worse than animals”.
He added: “Can you really support Zionism after this?”
The Conservatives said Mr Ikram was not a member of the party when he shared the article and “no longer holds or agrees with comments he made at that time”.
Mr Nawaz also stood for the party in 2019 when he contested a seat in North ward.
He has made comments in recent years about Labour leader Keir Starmer whose wife and children are Jewish.
In one comment he uses the phrase “after he’s done his deed and served his masters,” while in another he refers to Sir Trevor Chinn (a vice-president of the Jewish Leadership Council) where he appears to question whether he has “bought off” Mr Starmer and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy.
Both comments are followed by emojis.
Peterborough Conservatives said Mr Nawaz is not one of its members.
The Peterborough Telegraph has attempted several times to contact him for comment.
A spokesman for Peterborough Conservatives said: “Cllr Mohammed Nadeem did not endorse the hateful views expressed by Zakir Naik. Our understanding is that he was not aware of Naik’s reputation when he shared a single video six years ago which did not exemplify this wider hate.
“He neither promotes nor endorses such views.
“The comments made by Muhammad Ikram are from 2014. Prior to him joining the Conservatives in 2016 he was a member of the Liberal Democrats and he no longer holds or agrees with comments he made at that time.
“Haq Nawaz is not a member of Peterborough Conservatives.
“We utterly reject antisemitism which has no place in any political party. Our record contrasts strongly with Peterborough Labour which has just had two councillors suspended by its national party and whose candidates have been repeatedly condemned by Labour Against Antisemitism.”
Subsequent to receiving the quote the PT has established that Mr Nawaz is a member of Whittlesey Conservatives.
There has been no suggestion from Labour that the suspension of two of its councillors is related to alleged antisemitism.
The party is currently investigating complaints which it has not outlined.
A Jewish Leadership Council spokesperson said: “It is extremely concerning that these members appear not to have been subject to prior vetting by the Conservative Party.
“We expect a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Jewish racism from all political parties. For whatever reason it seems that there is a specific and identifiable problem in Peterborough politics that needs to be resolved.
“The statement issued to the Peterborough Telegraph from the local Conservative Party lacks any contrition or apology from the candidates in question. We would urge the Conservative Party to suspend the members involved and investigate further.”
The JLC has previously criticised former Labour MP for Peterborough Lisa Forbes - who is standing for the party in May’s city council elections - for liking a Facebook post which described then Prime Minister Theresa May keeping her “Zionist Slave Masters agenda alive”.
Ms Forbes said at the time she had liked the video accompanying the post, which was of children playing, and had not read the text.
Labour also previously selected a council election candidate - Alan Bull - despite allegedly knowing he had been accused of denying the Holocaust.
Mr Bull has always denied being antisemitic and has called on the Labour Party to “correct the record and apologise for misrepresenting my character and causing considerable distress to my family and me”.