Sharia patrols, also referred to as Muslim patrols or Modesty patrols, involving a group or several groups of young Muslim men, members of an organisation self-named the Shariah Project, have patrolled streets in East London since at least early 2013. Early that year, videos of their activities, filmed by members of the patrol, were uploaded online: these showed hooded members of the patrol confronting passers-by and demanding that they conform to Sharia law. They targeted prostitutes, people drinking alcohol, couples who were holding hands, women whom they considered to be dressed immodestly, and harassed others whom they perceived as being gay. Five men were arrested in January 2013 as part of an investigation into the gang, and three were given jail sentences on 6 December 2013.
In response to the 'Muslim Patrols', the far-right organisation Britain First has established 'Christian Patrols'. In the German city of Wuppertal there were reported incidents in September 2014 involving men in uniforms identifying themselves as "Shariah Police", whose actions involving intimidating members of the public have been deemed "intolerable" by the German government.
A second video, beginning with a logo saying "Islam will take over the world", showed the gang directing homophobic abuse at a man walking in Whitechapel. The gang shouted at a man who appeared to be wearing make-up that he is "in a Muslim area dressed like a fag" and must leave. One gang member orders the man: "Get out of here quicker. You're dirty mate." After the victim says that he is a homosexual, he is forced to say that he is "dirty".
Their latest video featured the gang saying: "We are coming to implement Islam upon your own necks. Muslim patrols can never be stopped".
The gang's videos were later removed from YouTube in January 2013 because they contravened the site’s policies on harassment, bullying and threatening behaviour.
Scotland Yard investigated the videos and the Metropolitan Police stepped up patrols in East London. A police spokesman said they were in contact with "local community leaders and influential people, local businesses and the local authority about the issue and what is being done". Five men were later arrested.
The East London Mosque condemned the patrols as "utterly unacceptable and clearly designed to stoke tensions and sow discord." They said the mosque was "committed to building co-operation and harmony between all communities in this borough."
Origin of patrols
The arrested patrollers were members of The Shariah Project. The organisation's co-founder, Abu Rumaysah, told the press the arrested men would be welcomed back despite their convictions at the Central Criminal Court. An East London Mosque official, speaking of the patrols, identified The Shariah Project as "strongly linked" to Anjem Choudary's group Al-Muhajiroun. Several media reports have since identified the Sharia patrols as part of a network of followers of Anjem Choudary.
Choudary himself has condoned the Sharia patrols, has spoken in public before several supporters known to take part in these patrols, including at meetings held early in 2014, and praised as "commendable" the actions of the convicted members of the Sharia patrol.
Conviction and sentencing
The Central Criminal Court heard evidence concerning incidents involving the patrol which took place in Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, and outside the East London Mosque where videos were made of members of the patrol harassing members of the public at night when the mosque was closed. The patrol targeted a heterosexual couple in Bethnal Green for holding hands, shouting at them to stop because they were in "a Muslim area". Just weeks later, the patrol picked on five friends who were drinking in the street because it was "Allah's land"; 19-year old Islamic convert Jordan Horner threatened to stab the men, while one of the patrol members shouted "kill the non-believers".
Three of the patrol members were convicted in November, and were sentenced on 6 December 2013. Jordan Horner, who uses the Islamic name Jamaal Uddin, pleaded guilty to two charges of assault and two charges of using threatening words and behaviour, was sentenced to 68 weeks imprisonment. 36-year old Ricardo MacFarlane who pleaded not guilty, was sentenced to one year for affray and two years for using threatening words and behaviour. 23-year old Royal Barnes, who was awaiting further trial regarding offensive videos about Lee Rigby and therefore could not be named at the time, pleaded guilty and received a six-month sentence for affray.
Maajid Nawaz, the head of an anti-extremist organisation, the Quilliam Foundation, warned that Muslim patrols could become a "lot more dangerous", and if joined by jihadis, might even kill or maim people. A writer for the International Business Times suggested that these "radical Muslim youths determined to impose their views of public conduct and morality" felt alienated from what they consider a "hostile and discriminatory outside society", and have turned to their faith to forge a separate identity.
In response to the "Muslim Patrols", the far-right organisation Britain First has established "Christian Patrols" in east London. The Christian Patrols ride through the area in "armoured Landrover vehicles" and have handed out literature marked with a red Christian cross. A Christian leader Rev. Alan Green, as well as a Muslim leader Dilowar Khan, have both condemned Christian and Muslim patrols.
Documentaries on London patrols
In April 2014 two news documentaries were produced about the on-going Sharia patrols: their respective presenters, Lama Hasan of ABC News and Alex Miller of Vice News, each accompanied a patrol in action. Alex Miller, reflecting on the difference between the evidence presented by the Youtube videos and what he observed of the patrol he followed around Ilford, commented: "this PR-friendly walk through the neighbourhood was pretty different from the country's first look at the Muslim patrols".
Interviewed by Alex Miller, Abu Rumaysah said: "We don't recognise British law at all. We believe in Islam. We believe in Sharia. And that's what sets our parameters for right and wrong."
2014 incidents in Wuppertal, Germany
Hardline Salafist Muslims patrolled the streets of Wuppertal, a city in the west of Germany, to "influence and recruit young people", according to local police. Dressed in bright orange reflective vests with "Shariah Police" printed on the back, the male patrollers have loitered around discotheques and gambling houses, telling passers-by to refrain from gambling and alcohol. Wuppertal's police have pressed charges.
A German Salafist posted on YouTube a propaganda video showing a poster with the English headline "Shariah Controlled Zone", followed by images of Salafists recruiting young people and visiting gambling houses. Joerg Rademacher, spokesman for the interior ministry, said the video was "a new provocation and part of the Salafist propaganda, which shows that the scene does not acknowledge Germany's rule of law". Officials of Northrhein-Westphalia, say there are about 1,800 Salafists in the state, of whom 10 percent are considered to be violent extremists. Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, told Bild that "the state alone" was responsible for the administration of justice in Germany, and any illegal parallel system of law enforcement would not be tolerated.
The 33-year-old behind the Wuppertal patrols, former fireman Sven Lau, published a video on his website, claiming that the men involved had simply worn mock uniforms for a few hours and that "Sharia police" never existed. "We knew that this would raise attention," Lau said, claiming that his goal was to spark a debate about Sharia law in Germany.
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