Britain’s first Muslim Government minister yesterday launched a libel battle in the High Court over claims that he organised “gangs of Asian thugs” to intimidate voters in a local election.
International Development Minister Shahid Malik is said to have “overseen and directed” up to 200 Asian Labour activists to help secure victory for a Muslim councillor. The men are said to have breached electoral rules by escorting voters to the polling station while telling them in Urdu to choose the Muslim Labour candidate. Mr Malik is also accused of encouraging ethnic division in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, by urging Asians to vote for “their Muslim brother” rather than according to their political opinion.
The allegations were first made by former Conservative councillor Jonathan Scott in a letter to the Dewsbury Press newspaper, after he was unseated as a local councillor. It describes how “Malik’s ethnic entourage behaved no better than BNP thugs” on polling day in the Dewsbury South ward of Kirklees Council. The letter – and a follow-up news story on the same topic – went on to claim that “Malik convinced local Asian voters to vote for Labour candidates… on the grounds that those candidates were ‘Muslim brothers'”.
Mr Malik appeared in court in London to give evidence against Mr Scott, the newspaper and the newspaper’s editor. Mr Malik’s lawyer Adam Wolanksi said the allegations were untrue and caused the 39-year-old MP for Dewsbury to be seen as “a racist and dangerous extremist who is unfit to hold public office”.