Thousands of Muslims in Birmingham were told that they would burn in hell fire unless they voted for the Labour party, a court has heard.
In May, Labour Councillor Ansar Ali Khan was re-elected in the district of Washwood Heath, with a majority of almost 8,000 – the largest in all of Birmingham.
However, Mr. Khan’s Lib Dem challenger, Shamsur Rehman, became suspicious, and now the campaign has become the subject of an Election Court challenge, the Birmingham Mail reports.
Mr. Khan’s campaign team stands accused of using “undue spiritual influence” over the political process. His legal team, however, insists he has done nothing wrong.
The accusation centres around the Facebook post published on April 15th, which demanded that all followers of Barelvi Sufi strain of Islam vote Labour in the local elections.
A photo was uploaded showing eight Labour politicians, including Ansar Ali Khan and Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood, with the leaders of the Victoria Road Mosque in Aston Pir Siddiqui. The caption read:
“All Pir, Sahiban and Darbars in Birmingham have ordered Mureeds to vote Labour in elections.”
According to the defeated Lib Dem candidate, who issued the court challenge, the meaning was clear.
— Ansar Ali Khan (@ansar_ali_khan) September 12, 2015
Commissioner Timothy Straker QC asked if it meant that if a person did not vote Labour as instructed, they “would after they died, go to hell”?
“Yes, that’s the suggestion,” Mr Rehman answered.
There is reported to have been some confusion over who posted and captioned the picture, and how long it was online for.
Mr Millar described Mr Rehman as a hypocrite, however, as he too had gone with fellow Lib Dem candidates for a similar photo opportunity later in the day.
Mr Millar said: “Lib Dems were meeting with the Pir, being on a photo with him, posting the photo on Facebook and appearing at the Milad with him. Exactly the same thing you are accusing my client of.
“It’s hypocritical to criticise my client for doing exactly what you have done”, he exclaimed.
Lib Dem Mr. Rehan said he had merely asked questions about the Labour endorsement during his meeting with Pir Siddiqui. He claimed that Mr. Khan had developed a ‘strong relationship’ with the religions leader.
“Get the Mosque on your side and you are well on the way to getting voted in in predominantly Asian areas. The Mosque is the kingmaker,” he said.
The case continues.