|The Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets: Veiled women pictured in the London borough which has seen a rise in extremism|
His promise to turn last month’s Royal Wedding into a ‘nightmare’ may not have materialised — but that won’t stop Richard Dart from peddling his views about Britain’s monarchy online.
‘Prince William, Prince Harry and the Queen of England are guilty of funding and supporting the terrorist attacks that take place in Muslim lands,’ he says adamantly in an internet video broadcast.
A Briton from Dorset who converted to Islam in 2009 and renamed himself Salahuddin (the son of teachers), Dart is one of several extremist Muslim preachers operating in the Tower Hamlets area of East London.
This vocal minority, who are causing increasing concern in the area, have lent this corner of the capital a new nickname — the Islamic republic of Tower Hamlets.
Recently, it was reported that a 31-year-old Asian woman who works in a local chemist’s had received death threats for refusing to wear a veil, even though she’s not a practising Muslim. Four weeks ago, the woman’s boss was apparently approached by an Asian in his 40s who told him his employee must cover her head and wear longer robes.
|British Muslims line up each day for Al-Aser or afternoon prayer at the East London mosque - there are fears Islamists have begun to dominate the local political process|
Plot central ~ Britain's takeover!
The low down ~ here is a video clip on more background
While we watch ~ they are doing what they say they are going to do.
‘If she keeps working here and continues to dress like that, we will boycott you because this is a Muslim area,’ the shop’s owner was told.
Subsequently another, younger, Asian man came into the pharmacy and started shouting at the employee.
‘He said: “If you keep doing these things, we will kill you,”’ recalls a Bangladeshi-born man who witnessed the scene.
It is not the first time such death threats have been issued, and nor are they confined to issues of dress and deportment. In behaviour that some have compared to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan, homophobic abuse and physical attacks against gay men and women are also reported to be on the increase.
Those familiar with life in Tower Hamlets are not surprised. They say that such attitudes are commonplace. Residents have grown used to the fact that the council-run libraries are stocked with books and DVDs containing the extremist rantings of banned Islamist preachers.
There is a Muslim faith school where girls as young as 11 have to wear face-covering veils. There are plans to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of municipal money to build a set of Islamic arches — the so-called ‘hijab gates’, which would look like a veil — at either end of Brick Lane, which is packed with Indian restaurants and clothes shops.
And there have been allegations of corruption during council elections, with the names of hundreds of Bangladeshi ‘ghost voters’ suddenly appearing on the electoral register.
But what many struggle to understand is how mainstream politicians are ignoring the corruption that is going on in the heart of our capital.
|Mayor Lutfur Rahman has promised to work with 'every member of the community, whether they are Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian or people of no faith'|
In October, Bangladeshi-born Lutfur Rahman became the first directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets. He originally stood as the Labour candidate but was deselected by the party amid allegations about his links with an organisation known as the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE).
The fundamentalist group believes in jihad and Islamic sharia law, and wants to turn Britain and other European countries into Islamic republics. Last year, a Labour minister said the organisation had infiltrated the Labour Party and accused it of ‘corrupting our politics’.
Leaders of the group want to impose hardline views on local communities. With bitter irony, it is said to have pocketed £10 million from the taxpayer by attracting state grants designed to ‘prevent violent extremism’.
Dumped by Labour, Mr Rahman ran as an independent (allegedly with the help of the IFE) and romped to victory in what the London Evening Standard described as ‘one of the nastiest campaigns in recent London political history’. Now in power, he has control over a £1.3 billion municipal budget.
‘You basically have a large umbrella Islamist group that appears to have almost a stranglehold over a major council in the East End of London,’ said one local resident.
‘The concern is that this Islamist group has an “us versus them” mentality. Their ideology is basically that Muslims are in the trenches, being assailed by the rest of the world. But they are convinced the Muslims will ultimately triumph. It may sound dramatic, but they are trying to impose Islam on Britain.’
The fear is that instead of governing in the interests of the whole community, power is being used to promote sectarian interests.
Like a number of London boroughs, Tower Hamlets is a multicultural mix. But more so than in other areas, for one ethnic minority — the Bangladeshis — heavily outnumbers the others. They arrived in the UK in large numbers mainly during the Seventies. The largest concentration settled in East London, with Tower Hamlets becoming a focus for the community.
As a result, the borough has a 49.4 per cent Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) population — with 33 per cent Bangladeshi. Soon, the borough will become one of a handful of council areas where the BAME grouping will outnumber the white population.
On their own, the figures are not exceptional. But what sets Tower Hamlets apart is the huge amount of political power wielded by the minority.
For several decades, Bangladeshis have been heavily involved in local politics, particularly in the ruling Labour Party.
While democracy should be open to anyone who wants to be involved, concerns have grown recently that Islamist groups have begun to dominate the political process. The fear is that instead of governing in the interests of the whole community, power is being used to promote sectarian interests.
In a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last year, an IFE activist and Tower Hamlets councillor told an undercover reporter: ‘We’ve got a lot of influence and power in the council — councillors, politicians.’
In view of some of IFE’s more extreme policies, that ‘influence’ is worrying.