Brent Labour councillors attend ‘joint prayer’ event in Wembley temple during lockdown
PUBLISHED: 14:47 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:41 08 July 2020
Brent Labour councillors attended a prayer service in a place of worship before lockdown restrictions were relaxed, as part of an event billed as a chance to “pray or reflect at home”.
Attendees at Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir, also known as Ealing Road Temple, on June 11 included council leader Muhammed Butt and Alperton councillor Trupti Sangani, as well Chetan Harpale, a former Labour candidate who was suspended from the party in January over alleged anti-Muslim tweets.
On June 5 Brent Council previously put out a media release in which it promoted a video by Brent Multi Faith Forum and said: “Following on from the message of unity in this video, we are calling for people of faith and no-faith to join together to pray or reflect at home at the same time on Thursday 11 June at 8pm.”
A video posted on Twitter by Cllr Sangani could be seen to have been shot by Mr Harpale, and showed a number of seated people in the temple, socially distanced.
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It is unclear who organised the event at the temple. Brent Council said it “did not organise a service for Labour councillors on June 11”.
At that time, government guidelines stated that places of worship could only open for funerals; to broadcast an act of worship; to provide public services such as a foodbank; or to provide early years childcare.
According to government guidance published on June 12, from June 13 places of worship were also allowed to open for “individual prayer”.
When asked about the event, a spokesperson for Ealing Road Temple directed enquiries to Cllr Butt, who said: “I took part in a socially distanced event at the Ealing Road Temple on Thursday June 11 as part of a borough-wide Brent Multi Faith Forum call for joint prayer and reflection.”
A Brent Multi Faith Forum said: “The Brent Multi Faith Forum did not organise the prayer meeting at Ealing Road Temple or any other prayer meetings.
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“On 11 June at 8pm, places of Worship in Brent took part in a unified time for prayer and reflection, as specified by Brent Council.”
A Brent Council spokesperson said: “Brent Council did not organise a service for Labour Councillors on June 11.
“Together with the Brent Multi Faith Forum, the council supported a call for people and faith organisations in Brent to take part in a display of unity by praying or reflecting at home at the same time on Thursday June 11.
“The council and the Brent Multi Faith Forum were and are very clear to participants that government guidelines should be respected and followed at all times.
“Gatherings and meetings were neither endorsed nor encouraged and any organisation which did take part would have been responsible for ensuring they followed the government guidelines.”
Cllr Sangani, who sits on Brent’s planning committee, told this newspaper: “I am proud to be a councillor for Alperton where we recognise and value all our communities.
“Brent Welcomes the work of Brent Multi Faith Forum for helping to bring us closer together.”
Since being contacted by this paper Cllr Sangani has made her Twitter account private.
A Brent Labour Party spokesperson said the prayer meeting was “not organised by the Labour Party”, and declined to give an update on Mr Harpale’s suspension from the party, citing data protection.
Mr Harpale was a Labour candidate for the Alperton by-election, before tweets emerged, apparently from his account, accusing Pakistan of being a “Terror State” and suggest that then-party leader Jeremy Corbyn is “pro-jihadist”.
Paul Lorber, the former Liberal Democrat council leader, said: “I’m very angry. During the Brent election when this issue appeared the Labour Party was very quick to distance themselves from Mr Harpale.
“What’s happened to that investigation? Do the public have any right to know the results of the investigation and what action was taken?”
Mr Harpale has not responded to requests for comment.
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