Islamist and terrorist links have been unearthed in connection to a proposed ‘mega-mosque’ in the heart of London. Plans have been submitted to London’s City of Westminster Council for a 1,000-worshipper capacity mosque in iconic Piccadilly Circus. The bid aims to transform parts of the historic Trocadero building in the West End, but locals have objected to the proposal, with some citing the proximity of the city’s gay quarter in the Soho district.
The proposal has been made by the Aziz Foundation, which is a charity offering educational grants and scholarships to Muslims. Heading the bid is Asif Aziz, CEO and founder of Criterion Capital, a Malawian-born tycoon who is the largest property owner between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, earning him the nickname ‘Mr. West End’. Aziz has recently taken a ‘hardball approach’ to businesses that have been unable to pay their rent due to lost income during the Corona virus epidemic. He was also in the news in 2017 over a legal wrangle with his estranged ‘wife’. Aziz contested her claim to a share of his £1.1 billion fortune, arguing they were never legally married.
The Aziz Foundation is connected to a network of extremist and terrorist organizations. As a ‘Muslim philanthropist’, Asif Aziz has written for The Forum, journal of the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF), which was stripped of £250,000 in state funding in 2014 after its links with the Union of Good were exposed, a designated terrorist organization created to fund the militant group Hamas. At least six of the ten charities in the MCF are or were members of the Union of Good, which was identified by the U.S. Treasury as an organization created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization. The Union of Good is directed by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric of Egyptian extraction and one of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood, who resides in Qatar. The Chairman of the MCF is Hany El Banna, who is also co-founder of Islamic Relief, a charity dogged by accusations of terrorist and extremist (Muslim Brotherhood) links. The MCF Secretary is Syed Lakthe Hassanain, Chairman of Hamas-affiliated charity, Muslim Hands.
Aziz Foundation personnel include a variety of extremist-linked individuals. Its Board of Trustees includes Talat Malik, who is also a trustee of extremist-linked Wimbledon Mosque, which has hosted speakers such as Imam Wasim Kempson, patron of jihadist support-group HHUGS. Director of the Aziz Foundation is Mohammed Abdul Aziz, also a trustee of Muslim Aid, a charity cited as one of the founding members of designated terrorist organization, Union of Good. Programme Manager is Saadia Mahmood, who has worked for the MCF, the Charity Commission for England and Wales and the UK government’s Department for International Development (DfID). Assistant Director is Shenaz Bunglawala, former Head of Research at extremist advocacy group Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND). Bunglawala has been a guest speaker at the Cordoba Foundation, which was accused by the British government of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and has openly supported Hamas. Although unverified, Bunglawala is likely sister of Inayat Bunglawala, former Media Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a UK umbrella group that has been dominated by Jamaat-i-Islami and usually acts in concert with the Global Muslim Brotherhood.
The Aziz Foundation took part in the 8th Global Donors Forum, which was held in London at the House of Lords, the British Museum and Mansion House. Its panelists included Tufail Hussain of Islamic Relief’s UK Executive Board, also a Trustee at the MCF. Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) is banned by the Israeli government over an “unauthorized association” with Hamas. Also speaking at the Global Donors Forum was First Lady of Turkey, Emine Erdogan. Under her husband’s rule, Turkey has become a de facto Islamist state; it is now the world’s biggest backer of the Muslim Brotherhood and supported the Islamic State in a variety of ways during the Syrian Civil War. As part of its donor activities, the Aziz Foundation has provided grants to the MCB (2019) and the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) (2017). ISB was formed by members or former members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami. It is a member of the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO), which, in turn, is the youth/student arm of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. FIOE has direct links to both Hamas and Qaradawi himself; and there is also evidence that some FIOE member organizations have links to Al Qaeda.
The Aziz Foundation annual report of 2018 provides insight into its activities. Included is funding of Faith Associates, which has worked with extremist and terrorist linked Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre (linked with ‘Jihadi John’). The Foundation provided key funding towards a report by the Runnymede Trust. This contribution marked the 20th anniversary of the Trust’s 1997 publication that launched the ‘Islamophobia’ industry: Islamophobia: a challenge for us all. The Baroness Warsi Foundation has also received funding. Warsi, who now sits in the House of Lords, was co-Chair of the Conservative Party and Foreign Office minister in David Cameron’s 2010 coalition government, until resigning in 2014 over the government’s support of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Warsi has associated with MEND on numerous occasions and is a high-profile advocate for investigating the Conservative Party for ‘Islamophobia’.
With the Aziz Foundation being situated in this network of Islamist associations, it is hoped that London’s City of Westminster Council will deny planning permission for the proposed mosque.