An imam who denies claims by David Cameron that he is an Islamic State supporter was invited by a Conservative candidate to recruit fellow Muslims for a Tory supporters’ meeting.
Suliman Gani received the request by text seven months ago as the party sought members for the Conservative Muslim Forum. The development came as photographs showed Gani inside Downing Street’s security cordon.
The Conservatives have been accused of running a racist “dog whistle” campaign in the mayoral election, as they seek to overturn Khan’s lead in the polls.
The prime minister told MPs last week: “I am concerned that Labour’s candidate for mayor of London has appeared again and again and again … The leader of the Labour party is saying it’s disgraceful … Suliman Gani … the honourable member for Tooting has appeared on a platform with him nine times. This man supports IS.”
The Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith, claimed Gani was “one of the most repellent figures in this country” and described Khan as radical.
Texts leaked to LBC showed that Dan Watkins, the Conservative candidate who stood as the Tory candidate for Tooting against Khan at the last election, contacted Gani in October. The imam was asked to bring along members of the “local Islamic community” to an event that was supposed to encourage more Muslims to become councillors.
Watkins wrote: “It is to encourage more Muslims to become councillors. Do you think you could come and invite local people you know?”
Goldsmith last week denied that Gani was invited to the Forum meeting. “It was a public meeting. Anyone could turn up,” the MP for Richmond said.
Gani has also gained entrance to Downing Street on several occasions, usually to drop off petitions, according to his associates. The names and addresses of those petitioning Downing Street have to be sent to the police in advance of a visit so they can be vetted.
Gani has insisted that while he has spoken about his support for the establishment of a genuinely Islamic state, he has always expressed his opposition to the terror group Isis.
No 10 has so far declined opportunities to withdraw its claims that Gani is a supporter of Isis. A Downing Street source said Gani had never set foot inside the prime ministerial residence.
This article was written by Rajeev Syal, for theguardian.com on Monday 25th April 2016 21.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010