The East London Mosque is shocked to note the provocation and antics of a fringe neo-Nazi group claiming to carry out so-called ‘Christian Patrols’ outside the mosque last Friday evening (31 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, filmed themselves drinking cans of lager, harassing and intimidating passers-by, and handing out inflammatory leaflets for a so-called ‘Christian Patrol’.

Claiming they were 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.

Had they done their research, Britain First would have known that the Muslim Patrols they claimed to be opposing were in fact imprisoned last year, directly as a result of reporting and diligence by members of the local Muslim community (the mosque was also active in reporting and removing stickers for ‘Sharia’ and ‘Gay Free Zones’).

The Muslim Patrols were linked to the banned extremist sect al-Muhajiroun, whose members have been actively opposed by the East London Mosque for many years. 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.

Voices of support

Dilowar Khan, executive director of East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre, said: “Efforts to intimidate and marginalise our community have been relentless. However, 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: “The ‘Muslim Patrols’ had nothing to do with the East London Mosque or the mainstream Muslim community. The so-called ‘Christian Patrols’ from this hate group have nothing to do with the Christian community either. 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.”

Extremists who need one another

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. An otherwise irrelevant movement, BF has taken to agitating against Muslims, claiming they are responsible for sexual grooming, writing insulting letters to mosques and accusing Muslims of wishing to push ‘Sharia law’ upon the rest of society.

Such disturbing fantasies belong firmly in the camp of the ‘counter-jihadism’ movement, whose main cheerleader has been the now-crumbling English Defence League. This is the conspiracy-laden world of killers such as Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011, claiming that Muslims were planning a ‘Eurabia’ takeover of Europe; and in the violent far-right fantasies of the 1999 London nailbomber, David Copeland, who set off bombs in Brick Lane, Brixton and Soho, killing three (including a pregnant woman) and wounding nearly 140 others in an attempt to ignite a racial war.

The attempt to incite violence from minority communities, in the hope of igniting a backlash against these minorities, is a well-known tactic used by white supremacists. Such ideas were prevalent in the mind of Pavlo Lapshyn, a Ukranian neo-Nazi who bombed three mosques in the West Midlands last summer and who killed an elderly Muslim man in Birmingham.

In recent years, there has been a tidal wave of irresponsible journalism from commentators following ‘counter jihadist’ arguments (“the problem is Islam”). Many seek to deliberately confuse conservative, but orthodox Islamic practices, with “extremism”, providing the oxygen and legitimacy which street thugs and online haters alike pick up.

You can read the East London Mosque statement, and condemnation, of Muslim Patrols here.

[ENDS]

Notes to editors:

The East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre serves the largest congregation of Muslims in the UK. With a rich history spanning over 104 years, it is London's oldest Mosque, dedicated to providing a range of holistic, culturally sensitive services for the communities of London. For further information visit: http://www.eastlondonmosque.org.uk

Further information about Britain First - www.hopenothate.org.uk/hate-groups/bf/