That’s the headline to a report in the Daily Mail. Ever eager to alert its readers to the encroaching Muslim menace, the paper claims that “a gang claiming to be Islamic vigilantes have been confronting members of the public and demanding they give up alcohol and women cover their flesh in their ‘Muslim area'”. This is accompanied by a video, originally posted by its creators on YouTube, in which a self-styled “Muslim patrol” harasses passers-by over their un-Islamic behaviour. According to the Mail, the events took place in Waltham Forest.
The report is taken from a piece on The Commentator website, titled “‘Muslim Patrol’ vigilantes attempt to control London streets”, which states that the video is “likely to have come from East London, where ‘Shariah zones’ were set up last year”. It provides a link to a 2011 report in the Mail headlined “‘No porn or prostitution’: Islamic extremists set up Sharia law controlled zones in British cities”, which was illustrated with photographs of one of Anjem Choudary’s idiot supporters putting up stickers in Waltham Forest announcing that the borough was a “Shariah controlled zone”. The Commentator adds that the individuals featured in the “Muslim patrol” video “are thought to be a part of an extremist network in East London”, the implication being that they are members of Choudary’s group.
In reality, it is clear that the video was shot in Tower Hamlets, near to the East London Mosque (which has issued a statement condemning the actions of the “Muslim patrol” and calling on anyone with information on the individuals involved to contact the police). There have in any case never been any sharia zones “set up” in Waltham Forest or anywhere else in East London. One dickhead putting stickers on lampposts doesn’t bring a “Shariah controlled zone” into existence.
Nor is there a “gang” harassing the citizens of Tower Hamlets over their alcohol drinking or way of dressing. As Richard Bartholomew has pointed out, the “patrol” appears to consist of just two individuals, one of whom is holding the mobile phone with which the video is taken. There is moreover no evidence that they are connected to Choudary’s minuscule band of nutters or indeed that they are part of any “extremist network” at all. Their behaviour was no doubt upsetting for the people they targeted, and hopefully they will be identified and charged with harassment, but if a couple of prats pulling a single Candid Camera type stunt constitutes a serious attempt by Islamist extremists to “control London streets” then words have lost all meaning.
This irresponsible reporting has of course had the predictable result of inflaming the far right, as it plays directly to their paranoid racist fantasies about the Islamification of Britain and the imposition of sharia law on non-Muslims. The English Defence posted a link to the Mail report on their Facebook page, provoking the usual outpouring of anti-Muslim hatred, threats of violence and calls for civil war. Not to be outdone, the EDL breakaway group Combined Ex Forces has announced that “members of CxF and other Patriots/Nationalists will be descending on London in the very near future to reclaim our streets”.