Tower Hamlets to take down Palestinian flags after hundreds of complaints

14 March 2024, 18:35 | Updated: 14 March 2024, 18:38

It is revealed that since October 2023, the council has received 300 complaints about flags, graffiti, and stickers which relate to the Gaza conflict.
It is revealed that since October 2023, the council has received 300 complaints about flags, graffiti, and stickers which relate to the Gaza conflict. Picture: Alamy
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

The area with the highest Muslim population of any local authority in the UK is to take down Palestinian flags after receiving hundreds of complaints.

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Tower Hamlets' mayor has announced the council will begin the process of removing Palestinian flags flying above their buildings.

It is revealed that since October 2023, the council has received 300 complaints about flags, graffiti, and stickers which relate to the Gaza conflict.

Lutfur Rahman said it was a "difficult decision” to remove the flags, which he claims “are being used to unfairly attack the people of the borough and further the Islamophobic narrative”.

Artwork featuring an image of Palestinian journalist Motaz Azaiza on a Palestinian flag painted on a shop blind in Tower Hamlets.
Artwork featuring an image of Palestinian journalist Motaz Azaiza on a Palestinian flag painted on a shop blind in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Alamy

Initially, the London council decided not to remove the flags to not "destabilise community cohesion".

However, the U-turn comes after being threatened with legal action by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKFLI).

They say that the 'divisive' Palestinian flags makes Jewish residents feel distressed.

Mr Rahman denies that the flags were a "symbol of division", but rather "symbols of solidarity and sympathy", with the thousands killed in Gaza.

The statement continues: "I understand that those who have erected these flags across the borough have done so in line with our strong tradition of solidarity and I reject that they are symbols of division."

"They are symbols of solidarity and sympathy for those enduring extreme suffering in Gaza. We must not forget that over 30,000 people have now been killed, 70 per cent of whom are women and children.

"The flags certainly had an impact and made residents’ views clear. Although these flags are an understandable expression of solidarity, I now feel they are being used to unfairly attack the people of the borough and further the Islamophobic narrative," he added.

The mayor emphasised that he was continuing to call for an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

According to the 2021 census, Tower Hamlets has the largest Muslim population of any local authority in the UK at 39.9 per cent.

In response to the U-turn, some criticised the mayor’s announcement and said Mr Rahman "caved in" to pressure to take down the flags.

The mayor emphasised that he was continuing to call for an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
The mayor emphasised that he was continuing to call for an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Picture: Alamy

The independent parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green and Stepney added: "I call on all residents to display the Palestinian flag in their windows in solidarity."

However, Jonathan Turner, the chief executive of UKLFI said: "After months of ignoring the voice of a significant number of Jewish and other residents of Tower Hamlets, we are pleased that Lutfur Rahman has at last been forced, following our threat of a legal action, to remove the divisive and inflammatory flags.

"It is also regrettable that the police failed to enforce the criminal law."

There has been a 365 per cent increase in Islamophobia across the UK after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 2023.

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