American student attacked in East London
Two weeks ago police released CCTV footage of a man being attacked by a group of five Asian men. A 20-year-old man, Shelim Uddin from Whitechapel, was charged late last month with causing grievous bodily harm to Francesco Hounye, a 22-year-old student from Florida.
Francesco had only been in the country for three days. Shelim was implicated in the footage, seen attacking the student with a bottle on Commercial Road, Whitechapel.
VIDEO: American student being attacked
Description: In a dimly lit street, a young man is walking home after a night out drinking with a friend. Unbeknownst to him however, is a gang of hooded hoodlums lurking in the shadows. They follow him down an empty street and a confrontation begins to unravel.
As the gang quickly surrounds him, some heated words are exchanged, and he postures up to them ready to fight back. The first punch is thrown, while another grabs the bottle in his hand and smashes it across his face.
A few stretched out moments of panic follow as he makes a dash across the road in front of a passing car, but they chase the man, grab him by the shoulders and pin him against a wall, wildly punching and kicking until he stumbles to the floor.
When the thugs have had their fill of savagery, they scatter like cockroaches, back into the covers of darkness.
Islamist group accused of attack
There were some news outlets that claimed that the vigilante street gang, who named themselves the ‘Muslim Patrol’, was to blame for the attack, while others, such as The Daily Beast, alluded to the possibility of the group being responsible.
However, there is currently no evidence to suggest that these attackers were connected to the Islamist group. The police said that Mr Hounye, who was considering continuing his studies in Britain, was targeted because he was “obviously not local.”
Who are the ‘Muslim Patrol’?
VIDEO: Aljazeera “The Stream, Who are the Muslim Patrol?”
The Muslim Patrol first gained notoriety after uploading their night time crusades onto Youtube earlier this year.
On a few nights in January, the group filmed themselves scolding prostitutes, people drinking alcohol, and women whom they called “naked animals”. The video went viral, spreading across the internet like wildfire. In it they claim that they were “vigilantes implementing Islam upon your own necks”.
A follow up video soon appeared. They increased their range, with a ‘patrol’ in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets and Shoreditch. They increased in confidence, stating “Islam will take over the world”.
One member of the group started getting violent. 19-year-old gang member Jamaal Uddin, is a British born Muslim convert formally known as Jordan Horner. Last month he pleaded guilty to two charges of assault and using threatening words and behaviour. In another incident, which took place outside Islam4UK’s spokesman Anjem Choudary’s home, Jamaal attacked one photographer and caused nearly £3000 worth of damage to another ones car.
By the beginning of February the gang’s two videos had been removed from YouTube citing policy violations, and two men had been arrested in connection to homophobic assaults. They were held on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and public order offences, and were bailed to return to an east London police station in February and March.
A further three were arrested in July, bringing the total to five possible gang members, two of which were teenagers. Details of these arrests have yet to be released. None of the arrested persons have been convicted, with having either charges dropped or proceedings still active.
In April this year, PlanetIvy reporter Ben Holt spoke to 22-year-old Royal Barnes, one of the men who was arrested over the Muslim Patrol videos. Royal and his wife were later charged with terror offences over the Woolwich murder video.
In the interview Royal said: “I’m proud of what Muslim Patrol done… I’m encouraging Muslims to speak out against evil.”
Reponse of the British public
The public response to the two clips that surfaced was a mixed one. There was anger; there was hatred; an uproar about the apparent growth of ‘Islamist Extremism’ within our British society.
Many in the Muslim community feared a backlash of violence, and were quick to condemn the assailants. The East London Mosque, which also functions as a local community centre, tried to distance themselves from the group. While Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum, a faith network in East London, released a statement in response to the patrols.
Mohammed Shafiq is the chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim organisation that campaigns for a peaceful co-existence among communities. He condemned the group’s behaviour in an address given at Ebrahim College, a school and educational foundation in Whitechapel.
He said: “We live in the UK and we are governed by UK law, there should be no mob rule. If people are involved in this behaviour then it is worrying but it is an isolated incident.”
VIDEO:An Imam’s response to patrol
Yet despite the widespread chastising of the group by British Muslims, there were many who were ready and willing to let the incident stoke racial tensions. Indeed, one Daily Mail commenter, Paul from Chilwell, lamented: “Why don’t these hate filled Muslims go back to their country of origin and leave us brits alone?”
In response, Abdul Mammon from Liverpool said: “I was born in the UK…are you lot going to send me back to England?”
Extremism in the UK
The Muslim Patrol is only the one instance of growing extremism in the UK and across Europe, which is being mirrored by anti-Muslim groups.
Haras Rafiq is the former Director of CENTRI, an organisation that specialises in countering extremism. In an interview with BBCs Shiraz Maher, he said: “The way [extremists] recruit is to create a lens or a prism through which youngsters who have a personal problem, that they may have created in the first place, will find the answers.”
Earlier this month Tommy Robinson, cofounder of British far right group the English Defence League (EDL), left to join Qulliam, a London based anti-extremist think tank started by Maajid Nawaz. Maajid was a former speaker and recruiter for the The Liberation Party, a conservative Islamic political group, until an arrest in 2001 and subsequent departure from extremism.
VIDEO: SkyNews Tommy and Maajid Press Conference
Tommy and Maajid recently appeared in a BBC Documentary “Quitting the English Defence League: When Tommy Met Mo”. Both men are now working together to curb the rise of extremism across Europe. In an article in The Times earlier this year, Maajid said: “The longer we stand by and watch the far Right and Islamists impose their dogma on our streets, the more the extremes will become mainstream for a rising new generation.”
Both sets of right-wing extremists are “attempting to claim the streets” he added.
However, Maajid and Quilliam are not without their critics.
Editor of 5Pillarz.com, Roshan Salih, lambasted the think tank for a lack of grassroots support, claiming that the organisation had been artificially amplified by government finances. He said: “There is a need for an organisation which has roots in the community, is loyal to it, is critical of the government and Islamophbia, yet also still seeks to address the real problems that exist in the community itself.”