• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Maajid Nawaz and Club Charlie’s Angels: What Happens In Whitechapel Doesn’t Stay In Whitechapel

What are the qualities that make for a successful proprietor of an establishment known in British licensing law as a “Sexual Entertainment Venue” (SEV)? Discretion must surely be close to the top of the list, along with a broadminded perspective on human nature – or, at the very least, the ability to compartmentalize personal distaste.

What then, are we to make of a certain Abdul Malik, a Whitechapel “gentleman’s club” owner who has handed over CCTV footage to the Daily Mail?:

A would-be Lib Dem MP who describes himself as a feminist has been filmed repeatedly trying to touch a naked lap dancer.

Married father-of-one Maajid Nawaz asked for two private sessions at a strip club in east London.

…Abdul Malik, the club’s owner, said he wanted the video to be seen by the public because of the way Nawaz portrays himself as a feminist and a family man. ‘He’s always talking about religion on TV and I thought, what a hypocrite,’ he said. 

He claimed ‘arrogant’ Nawaz acts like a ‘spokesman for Islam’ – but visited the club during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The article also reports claims (including from the manager, Jay Shah) that Nawaz behaved badly at the venue – attempting to touch a dancer, asking for her phone number and “drinking heavily”. However, he wasn’t asked to leave or ejected, so it’s difficult to believe he acted in a way that such places are not used to managing.

Half-way through the story, we are told that Nawaz arrived in the company of “two friends”, and at the very end we are given the detail that according to Nawaz, the visit was a stag do. This was July 2014; Nawaz didn’t get married until October 2014, but any case the “married father-of-one” label is irrelevant and misleading.

Of course, some will argue that Nawaz’s visit to such a place (or if not, his alleged conduct there) is inconsistent with his feminism or undermines his credibility as a reform-minded Muslim commentator (“a leading figure in the Muslim community”, according to the Mail, although he describes himself as a “non-devout Muslim”). But since when did such scruples move lap-club proprietors to break “the code“?

Malik’s name suggests that he is himself of Muslim heritage, but given his choice of business venture his moralizing pose is somewhat unconvincing. And there’s no overriding business reason for wanting to damage Nawaz’s election chances or public profile, either – so why has he done it? A club of this kind that “exposes” customers doesn’t have much of a future.

UPDATE: Nawaz has now responded publicly to the story. He specifically denies behaving badly at the venue, explaining that he was “tame and compliant” when in the company of the dancer and that he “was certainly not issued a warning at any time”.

He has also named the venue as Club Charlie’s Angels, which is at 30 Alie Street. Until a recent refurbishment, this club was known as Club Oops, which was owned by Abdul Ali, a former kickboxing champion (see pdfs here and here). However, in late 2014, and in accordance with licensing law, a Public Notice was printed in local media to announce that (see Appendix 13 at this pdf):

City Traders London Limited of 329 Romford Road London E1 9HA made application to London Borough of Tower Hamlets for the grant of a licence to use the premises named below as a Sexual Entertainment venue. Address of Premises: Charlie’s Angels, 30 Alie Street London E1 SDA.

There is indeed an Abdul Malik who is the director of City Traders London Limited, as well as of several other companies.

Nawaz also gives a bit of background:

1. The man named by the Daily Mail as the manager, Jay Shah (or Jahan Shah) apparently emailed Nawaz’s now-wife shortly after the visit. According to Nawaz there were multiple emails, which he says were “scary”.

2. Evidence from a comment thread originating at the site Mushy Peas shows that Shah made contact with Dilly Hussain of the website 5Pillarz in October, after posting that he had “a very interesting story regarding this fraud”. However, Hussain has denied having a hand in the Mail‘s story. (Mushy Peas is an attack site aimed at Nawaz; I recently documented one outright falsehood on the site).

3. A few days before the Daily Mail article appeared, a sockpuppet Twitter account appeared under name Tony Wright (@DonTonyz). Hours before the article was published, the user Tweeted Nawaz with praise for his book Radical; but minutes after publication, the same account attacked him for “exploiting women”. This was then used as evidence that Nawaz’s supporters were turning against him. An observer named Andrew Nolan has documented the story.