The East London Mosque says that efforts to intimidate and marginalise the Muslim community have been relentless, but remain commited to working with multi-faith partners as its fundamental priority.
The mosque in Tower Hamlets, London was shocked at the provocative behaviour and antics of a fringe neo-Nazi group, a splinter group of the BNP, claiming to carry out so-called ‘Christian Patrols’ outside the mosque on 31st January.
Members of Britain First (BF), a tiny far-right organisation run by a former British National Party (BNP) councillor in Swanley, Kent, and ex-Nick Griffin protégé, Paul Golding.
The group filmed themselves drinking cans of lager, harassing and intimidating passers-by, and handing out inflammatory leaflets for a so-called ‘Christian Patrol’.
They claimed to be looking for a confrontation with ‘Muslim Patrols’. Most of their actions involved driving up and down Brick Lane in an armoured Land Rover and swilling beer, before unfurling a ‘Resistance’ banner outside the mosque.
Three members of the ‘Muslim Patrol’ were jailed last year for intimidation. Jordan Horner and another 23-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told one couple they could not hold hands while walking down the street, because it was in a ‘Muslim area’.
The group, which included Ricardo MacFarlane also threatened men who were drinking and criticised the way women were dressed.
Amusingly, and rather embarrassingly, had they done their research, the group would have known that the so-called ‘Muslim Patrols’ they claimed to be opposing were in fact imprisoned last year. This action took place directly as a result of reporting and diligence by members of the local Muslim community, which had been pushed by the East London Mosque itself.
The Muslim Patrols were linked to the now-banned extremist sect al-Muhajiroun, whose members have been actively opposed by the East London Mosque for many years.
A spokespoerson from the mosque said: “In our view, Britain First’s patrol does not represent Christians, just as al-Muhajiroun’s patrols did not represent Muslims. Both are tiny, extreme groups, unwelcome in our community.
“Had Mr Golding visited our premises openly, he would have seen the work we undertake with Christian friends and partners up and down the land: indeed, we are recognised for this work within the inter-faith sector and we have engaged with scores of Christian leaders and organisations, hosting events between the faiths for dialogue, on issues of common concern and for better understanding.”
Golding’s actions, and those of his associates, have been reported to the authorities, who are taking the matter extremely seriously.
Dilowar Khan, executive director of East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, said: “We take comfort in the support given by our partners in the community, of all faiths and none, who have always stood firmly together to oppose hatred and division.
“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.”
Julian Bond, director of the Christian Muslim Forum (the UK’s largest interfaith network of Christians and Muslims), said: “I would encourage people to meet one another if they are concerned about their neighbours of other faiths: dialogue is the way forwards and we are currently running dialogue sessions in Whitechapel during a Lunchtime Dialogue series.”
Dr Glyn Robbins, chair of the local anti-hate network, United East End, said: “The people of Tower Hamlets will not be intimidated by this mindless stunt. We have shown our solidarity in the face of such intimidation before and will do so again.”
Britain First is backed by former anti-abortion extremist Jim Dowson, a Protestant who once helped bankroll the BNP (before falling out with its leader Nick Griffin). Dowson has been active for many years in Northern Ireland, most recently at flag protests which turned violent.
The Police at Tower Hamlets are aware of an internet video showing recent activity on the Borough and are investigating the matter.
No arrests have yet been made.