London Citizens

Our Experience of London Citizens

This article was originally a comment on the Standing By Extremists Undermines Liberals thread

London Citizens has in the past been an excellent organisation which has firmly adhered to classic Alinksy principles of Community Organising, where a wide breadth of civil society (churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, trades unions) work together in strict separation from the political establishment, political parties and the state. This strict separation is absolutely critical for the integrity of its work to defend the rights of those who have no voice – including the poor, immigrants and asylum seekers, and some marginalised voices in the Muslim community which have been shut out by others.

In the past London Citizens was characterised not by building unholy coalitions of power, but rather defending extremely unpopular and morally just causes for the weakest – such as its Strangers into Citizens work for asylum seekers – things which would never win it any election.

However, over recent months and years, we are concerned that various individuals and groups have used London Citizens as a platform to advance agendas of party political control and power, and exclude others who disagree.

Our small independent mosque community was obstructed from joining London Citizens by some of the very political actors mentioned in this article, and we had to appeal to the Board of Trustees to get this overturned. So the reference to betrayal of progressive Muslim communities has a painful resonance for us.

At the same time as these political players, there are others who have likewise used London Citizens for their own party political agenda, and narrowed the proper separation between free civil society and political parties in Community Organising. The ‘Blue Labour’ movement has become closely associated with the name of London Citizens in some of its leading proponents, and yet at the same time, Blue Labour calls upon the Labour Party to move in a right-wing direction of engaging supporters of the English Defence League, and taking a stance against immigrants and asylum seekers to appease alleged white working class racism and win votes.

Worthy Community Organising projects are often victim to the vagaries of those who use and abuse it for their own political advancement and brute power, and this is why London Citizens must now learn to hear the grievances of its members, and return to the traditional values which have enabled it in the past to be a moral voice from vulnerable asylum seekers, the poor and those others who have no voice.

Here is Junaid Ahmed, deputy chair of London Citizens, where he represents the East London Mosque, calling Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas “our leader”.

You can see more of his salute to Hamas here.