David Cameron’s general election campaign adviser spoke at an event for a group linked to Islamic extremism. Lynton Crosby made the appearance for the group Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) at last year’s Conservative Party Conference.
Crosby was described as the “star speaker” at the event, and his appearance has been used in publicity for the group since. MEND’s ‘Head of Community Engagement’ Azad Ali expressed his “love” of Imam Anwar Awlaki, the American Jihadi who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.
Later Mr Ali was quoted in the Daily Telegraph describing Muslims who support the government as “self-serving vultures, feeding on the dead flesh of the Palestinians”. He also attacked the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, when he said the Hamas leader was wrong to describe Jewish children as “legitimate targets”.
Ali also defended the killing of British soldiers in Iraq, saying: “If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation. If I found the same soldier in Jordan I wouldn’t touch him. In Iraq he is a fighter and an occupier, here he is not. I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for jihad.”
The comments led to him being suspended from his job in the Treasury, although he was later allowed back to work after an investigation. But he was not out of trouble for long, and in 2012 the BBC reported his friendship with the radical hate preacher Abu Qatada.
Ali also posted a message to Twitter supporting the former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg (pictured). Mr Begg is the outreach director for the group CAGE, which recently held a press conference in which they blamed British Intelligence officers for radicalising Jihad John.
Despite Mr Ali’s association with MEND it was still allowed to host an event inside the secure zone at party conference. Delegates and groups allowed within the zone are vetted as they will be in close proximity to high profile terrorist targets like David Cameron.
There is no suggestion Crosby knew of Mr Ali’s views, but it does raise the question of what checks are carried out on groups use party coneference to associate with the Conservatives.