Searchlight Magazine

Strange bedfellows

Why would a trustee of an antifascist charity join a group run by a close associate of the far-right English Defence League? Sonia Gable investigates the curious activities of Charlie Flowers.

Our front cover photo taken at an English Defence League rally in March 2010 shows Charlie Flowers holding the loud-hailer for Alan Ayling, who at least until August 2011 was one of the Islamophobic EDL’s financial backers, and perhaps still is. It was in Ayling’s £500,000 Barbican flat that Ayling, who used the name Alan Lake, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the EDL’s street leader, Paul Ray, one of the EDL’s founders, and others met in 2009 to bring together “the ideological and political side with the boots on the ground”, according to Ray. [1]

Flowers purports to oppose extremism, as indeed does the EDL itself [2], though the extremism the EDL opposes does not include its own. Flowers opposes extremism so much that he has formed the so-called Anti-Extremism Alliance [3] as well as a Facebook group called Cheerleaders Against Everything, formerly Cheerleaders Against Islamic Extremism [4], a pointer to the limited nature of the extremism Flowers opposes.

It is these two groups that have announced a public meeting in Conway Hall, London, on 26 April 2012 under the title “Muslims in the West –What is the Way Forward?”, featuring as one of four “keynote speakers” Tehmina Kazi. [5]

Kazi is the director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, an organisation whose praiseworthy aims include “helping to contribute to a shared vision of citizenship (the separation of faith and state, so faiths exert no undue influence on policies” and to “encourage religious understanding and harmony, respect for different systems of beliefs”. [6] Her good work in speaking about inequalities faced by Muslim women, an issue that some anti-racists prefer not to recognise, and in support of a more inclusive society recently received a positive write-up in the Harrow Observer. [7]

Since February 2011 Kazi has also been a trustee of Searchlight Educational Trust (SET). An antiracist and antifascist charity, SET was formed in 1992 by members of the Searchlight magazine team, but the connection between the two organisations ended last September.

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She probably became an SET trustee soon after she joined the Cheerleaders, where she is listed as a member for “over a year”. Not all the Cheerleaders are so keen on SET however. On 8 March 2010 a blogger reported that a Cheerleader calling herself Shooter Kirpachi had published the home address and car registration number of an SET employee. According to the blog posting she did this “because [he] had given her friend Charlie Flowers the brush-off when he tried to contact him on Facebook”. The blogger added that the car registration details must have come from the fascist Redwatch website, which publishes personal details of antifascists to target them for attack. Shooter was persuaded to remove the details after a few hours but the damage had been done.

The blogger Richard Bartholomew has chronicled Flowers’s cyber bullying and stalking activities since late 2008 and pointed out in a posting on 29 November 2010 that he had “insinuated himself into various groups, such as British Muslims for a Secular Democracy”. [8]

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Another organisation into which Flowers “insinuated himself” was the Hope Not Hate (HNH) campaign (like SET, no longer connected with Searchlight), whose Christmas party he attended in 2009 at the invitation of Matthew Collins, an HNH worker. Flowers also raised money for HNH and went out leafleting a few times. He counted several SET employees and associates among his Facebook friends, as well as Alan Lake. Charitably it was thought at the time that Flowers genuinely hoped to turn the EDL away from their hatred of Muslims and even turn Muslim extremists away from hatred of non-Muslims – all on his ownsome it would seem.

But Flowers went about it in a strange way. On 27 February 2010 Flowers was spotted in happy conversation with Joel Titus on Facebook. Titus is the youth leader of the EDL who in April 2011 was jailed for nine months for affray for taking part in a pre-arranged brawl between football supporters in London in May 2010. He also has convictions for threatening behaviour for swearing at a police officer who was trying to break up a fight and a caution for battery after hitting a journalist during a right-wing demonstration in December 2009. [9]

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The photo of Titus with his arm around Flowers, published on 25 February 2010 in an exposé by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, also suggests a happy relationship. [10] That exposé included a photo of Flowers holding up a Unite Against Fascism (UAF) pamphlet, perhaps another organisation that he has targeted for his mischief-making.

Flowers claims now to have broken with the EDL. [11] However his insidious activities continue. On 10 February Flowers posted on the Cheerleaders Facebook page “Charlie is stoked and chuffed to find out that he’s going to be in next month’s Searchlight as a feature, written by the fascist/communist Sonia Gable!”

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This information can only have come from Kazi, whom I had approached for a comment (which she declined to give) on why she was speaking at Flowers’s Conway Hall event. Flowers claimed we at Searchlight were “miffed” not to have been invited to his meeting – an event we would not touch with a very long bargepole.

In an attempt to stir up more trouble, Flowers added: “A little backstory – recently Hope Not Hate and Searchlight had a parting of the ways, when HnH found out what Sonia and co had done with all the money they’d raised (embezzled it, basically)”.

Whether this lie and the personal insult came from Kazi or HNH is not known. When Searchlight and SET/HNH split last September, SET made a complaint to the police that I had stolen £18,777. In fact this was money legitimately owed by SET to Searchlight for advertising and magazine sales, and the police quickly closed their file without interviewing me.

Quite what Flowers is up to is unclear, or perhaps not. I started this article by referring to Ayling/Lake. Back in 2009-10 when Gerry Gable, now editor of Searchlight, was in charge of SET/HNH’s investigation section, he gave Collins the task of finding out who Alan Lake was. Nick Lowles, chief executive of SET and editor of Searchlight at the time, had identified Lake in October 2009 as a “key figure” behind the EDL, describing him as a 45-year-old businessman who claimed to have made money through computers. [12]

It would not have been that hard to beat The Sunday Times to the story as Ayling had been exposed over two months earlier by Ray, blogging under the name Lionheart. [13]

Even after Ayling’s exposure, it is odd that HNH has never referred to Ayling and Ann Marchini, the property tycoon also exposed by The Sunday Times, or wondered about the true role of Ray, apart from posting the newspaper’s story on its website, unlike UAF and Searchlight, for example, which published further revelations. Instead Collins and co limit their “investigations” to exposing the admittedly nasty, but ultimately ephemeral, postings of EDL supporters on Facebook. [14] Does HNH have some other agenda of its own or is it just laziness?

As for Flowers, one has to ask who benefits from his duplicitous activities. Worming his way into a spread of organisations, cyber bullying, repeating lies and stirring up trouble is highly suggestive of a state agent provocateur who far from trying to make peace between the EDL, the Muslim community and antifascists is doing precisely the opposite and trying to create confusion. Antifascists be warned. Stay clear of this man.

Notes
1. Sunday Times 11.12.2011
2. For example the EDL’s explanation of why it wanted to march in Manchester on 25 February 2012, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-17095923
3. www.the-aea.com, on which nothing has been posted since 16.12.2011
4. www.facebook.com/groups/131762192700
5. www.facebook.com/events/158624617582815
6. www.bmsd.org.uk/pages.asp?id=2
7. Harrow Observer 12.01.2012
8. barthsnotes.com/2010/11/29/cyber-bully-charlie-flowers-makes-new-threat
9. www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-13140452
10. www.mpacuk.org/story/240210/cheerleaders-exposed-part-1-cyber-thug-locked.html and www.mpacuk.org/story/250210/cheerleaders-exposed-part-2-connecting-dots.html
11. barthsnotes.com/2011/07/08/the-anti-extremism-alliance
12. Searchlight October 2009, p6
13. lionheartuk.blogspot.com/2011/10/alan-ayling-aka-alan-lake-is-going-to.html
14. For example www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/article/1599/tommys-irish-problem
All internet pages last accessed on 20 February 2012

© 2013 Searchlight Magazine Ltd, PO Box 1576, Ilford IG5 0NG

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