Written by Shiraz Maher
"Rid the Streets of Evil"
"The Muslim community have taken it upon themselves to rid the streets of evil. This is just how the Taliban started in Afghanistan. For all intents and purposes, you are witnessing the emergence of the Taliban in Walthamstow." — Website, Islam4UK
With East London hosting the world during the Olympics, a group of Islamists associated with Anjem Choudary and his group, Islam4UK, have taken the law into their own hands.
Over recent weeks the group has launched a vigilante campaign in Waltham Forest, close to the main Olympics venues, to target "Pimps and Prostitutes," part of a wider campaign by Choudary's associates to launch their own vigilante campaigns, based on a narrow interpretation of Shariah law. Last year, the group put up stickers around parts of East London declaring it a 'Shariah Zone.' It warned women to observe strict dress codes, and local residents against drinking alcohol. Homosexuals were also threatened.
"Pimps and Prostitutes" is a new campaign. Of course, few would argue with a genuine civic movement to clear the streets of prostitutes, but Choudary's men are not motivated by public spirit. They want instead to assert Islamist principles and practice over parts of public life in London, in the hope of carving out enclaves for themselves. "As Muslims in your local area it is our duty to invite you to embrace Islam" the group states, "but we also want to share with you some of the great projects we're involved in that can make a real change to the area."
Underpinning this is a complete disregard for British law and the authority of the state – as is confirmed by the group's website, which states that the local community should "give Muslims a chance to work towards eradicating prostitution, with members pointing to the Quran and declaring it to be the way forward for the area…we believe that intimate relationships should only be between married couples."
This is the tip of the iceberg: the group also wants to target what it calls "pornographic advertising." It argues that billboards which show revealing pictures of women "dehumanize" them and consequently promote prostitution. They also want far stricter punishments for those persons violating these rules, and, at least for for the Waltham Forest area, argue for the imposition of Shariah punishments against those who do not agree with their view.
The group's ambitions were confirmed when they told a newspaper, "The Muslim community have taken it upon themselves to rid the streets of evil. This is just how the Taliban started in Afghanistan. To all intents and purposes you are witnessing the emergence of the Taliban in Walthamstow."
This gives an indication of the group's inspiration. On their website they make reference to the Red Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan -- a mosque run by radicals who slowly began challenging the government by enforcing the Shariah in parts of Islamabad. Things eventually came to a head when the group began flogging women for alleged prostitution, and the government was forced to act against the group.
"What truly set Lal Masjid [Red Mosque] apart was the desire of its students to give life to the verses in the Quran" the group boasts. "They would actively confront evils in their community, in particular brothels and prostitutes, and made sure that whatever they learnt from their teachers was implemented and did not die in their hearts."
Islamists have launched these kinds of campaigns in the past as well. In 2009, Yusuf Patel, who is connected to the radical group Hizb ut Tahrir, launched a campaign against sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools. The core mission of the SRE initiative was described as:
As Muslims we believe in the primacy of marriage, the prohibition of sexual relations outside marriage, the unacceptability of homosexuality which is often portrayed as a lifestyle choice. We also subscribe to the concept of Hayaa (modesty) which guides the interaction between men and women.
In itself, there is nothing wrong with this. Many parents might object to aspects of sex education in school, but Patel's campaign was cloaked in disingenuous terms. The primary aim of the campaign was to promote Hizb ut Tahrir to unsuspecting parents who might have had their own objections to SRE classes. The campaign is also dressed in deeply homophobic terms, expressing concern that same sex relationships could be "normalized" in the minds of children.
The campaign typified Hizb ut Tahrir's approach to entering a society. It told members they should become school governors because:
Governors have a huge amount of leeway to mould the strategic direction of a school. Whether you are a parent, community, staff or LA [Local Authority] governor, you can get involved to improve the educational experience of all children.
The latest anti-prostitution campaign in East London typifies an Islamist strategy, which is to create parallel communities for Muslims that do not interact with their non-Muslim neighbors. Islamists use these initiatives to present themselves as active members of the community, often picking on legitimate and understandable concerns. Their aim is to win new recruits and further their divisive agenda. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Waltham Forest where, by their own admission, Islamists are proudly declaring the emergence of a Taliban-styled vigilante group.