Elham Asaad Buaras
A group calling itself the Christian Patrol is stoking tension in East London after canvassing the neighbourhood on January 31 telling Muslim residents to abide by the country’s laws. A video posted online shows men arriving in military style jeeps, handing out leaflets and standing outside a local mosque smoking and drinking alcohol before unfurling a banner reading British Resistance.
The men belong to Britain First, a far-right party. According to reports, their actions come in response to so-called Muslim Patrol groups, composed of young men attempting to create Muslim zones by stopping people who they believe are not conforming to Islamic law in the neighbourhood.
At around 9:15pm, the Christian group attempted to stage an impromptu protest outside the East London Mosque by unfolding a banner and taking pictures. But the protest was very short-lived as the men rushed off when they saw worshippers from the mosque exiting the building.
The group later posted a video on the Britain First website. The video shows members of the group approaching Muslims, and the group leader and former BNP Councillor, Paul Golding, boasted how he sent men to provoke Muslims outside the East London Mosque. Golding said they were using members with cans of lager as ‘bait’ for Muslims outside the East London Mosque in Whitechapel.
“This is going to be a regular thing. We’re going to be out there every weekend to draw out these Muslim Patrols,” he said after the footage emerged.
The Metropolitan Police say that they were aware of the internet video. Tower Hamlets Council statement said that there will be an increased police presence in the affected areas to help reassure the community.
A spokesperson for the police told The Muslim News: “We will work with our partners in policing the diverse communities in Tower Hamlets to provide a safe environment for those who live, work and visit the borough. No arrests have been made, but the spokesperson added that they “take these incidents very seriously and any activities that may raise community tension will be monitored”.
A spokesperson for the East London Mosque, said: “We are working with the authorities in response to this incident, which has left many people in fear of intimidation and threats. Our response to the so-called ‘Muslim Patrols’ was unequivocal; our response to the so-called ‘Christian Patrols’ will be the same. We will not let those who espouse hatred to damage our wonderful community relations.”
East end Muslim group Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) strongly condemned the actions. In a statement to The Muslim News IFE spokesman, Abdullah Faliq, warned that “these racist hugs have nothing to do with Christianity and their rhetoric and antics are antithetical to British culture and values. These extremists are trying to sow the seeds of hatred and tension in the community by abusing religion – they must be rejected outright.”
Faliq further added that “thugs belonging to Britain First as well as other extremists, irrespective of background should face the full brunt of the law. Inaction on the part of the police, the Council as well as faith and community leaders will lead to further escalation of tensions on religious and cultural grounds”. Shahed Ali, Independent Councillor for Whitechapel Ward told The Muslim News the group does not represent, “the Christian community, just as groups such as ‘al-Muhajiroun’ patrol did not represent the Muslim community. Both are not welcome in our diverse communities whom live, work and play together in harmony.”
He added; “It is extremely worrying to note the manner in which they arrived in armoured jeeps, and then made their way to the East London Mosque to do nothing other than attempt to provoke law abiding citizens. The culprits seem to have history associated with the far-right British National Party.”