TOWER HAMLETS TALIBAN; Death Threats to Women Who Don't Wear Veils. Gays Attacked in the Street. Council-Run Libraries Stocked with Extremist Literature. and All in a Borough at the Heart of Britain's Capital
Byline: by Tom Rawstorne
HIS promise to turn last month's Royal Wedding into a 'nightmare' may not have materialised -- but that won't stop Richard Dart from peddling his views about Britain's monarchy online.
'Prince William, Prince Harry and the Queen of England are guilty of funding and supporting the terrorist attacks that take place in Muslim lands,' he says adamantly in an internet video broadcast.
A Briton from Dorset who converted to Islam in 2009 and renamed himself Salahuddin (the son of teachers), Dart is one of several extremist Muslim preachers operating in the Tower Hamlets area of East London.
This vocal minority, who are causing increasing concern in the area, have lent this corner of the capital a new nickname -- The Islamic republic of Tower Hamlets.
Recently, it was reported that a 31-year-old Asian woman who works in a local chemist's had received death threats for refusing to wear a veil, even though she's not a practising Muslim. Four weeks ago, the woman's boss was apparently approached by an Asian in his 40s who told him his employee must cover her head and wear longer robes.
'If she keeps working here and continues to dress like that, we will boycott you because this is a Muslim area,' the shop's owner was told.
Subsequently another, younger, Asian man came into the pharmacy and started shouting at the employee.
'He said: "If you keep doing these things, we will kill you,"' recalls a Bangladeshi-born man who witnessed the scene.
It is not the first time such death threats have been issued, and nor are they confined to issues of dress and deportment. In behaviour that some have compared to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan, homophobic abuse and physical attacks against gay men and women are also reported to be on the increase.
Those familiar with life in Tower Hamlets are not surprised. They say that such attitudes are commonplace. Residents have grown used to the fact that the council-run libraries are stocked with books and DVDs containing the extremist rantings of banned Islamist preachers.
There is a Muslim faith school where girls as young as 11 have to wear facecovering veils. There are plans to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of municipal money to build a set of Islamic arches -- the so-called 'hijab gates', which would look like a veil -- at either end of Brick Lane, which is packed with Indian restaurants and clothes shops.
And there have been allegations of corruption during council elections, with the names of hundreds of Bangladeshi 'ghost voters' suddenly appearing on the electoral register.
But what many struggle to understand is how mainstream politicians are ignoring the corruption that is going on in the heart of our capital.
In October, Bangladeshi-born Lutfur Rahman became the first directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets. He originally stood as the Labour candidate but was deselected by the party amid allegations about his links with an organisation known as the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE).
The fundamentalist group believes in jihad and Islamic sharia law, and wants to turn Britain and other European countries into Islamic republics. Last year, a Labour minister said the organisation had infiltrated the Labour Party and accused it of 'corrupting our politics'.
Leaders of the group want to impose hardline views on local communities. With bitter irony, it is said to have pocketed [pounds sterling]10 million from the taxpayer by attracting state grants designed to 'prevent violent extremism'.
Dumped by Labour, Mr Rahman ran as an independent (allegedly with the help of the IFE) and romped to victory in what the London Evening Standard described as 'one of the nastiest campaigns in recent London political history'. Now in power, he has control over a [pounds sterling]1.3 billion municipal budget.
'You basically have a large umbrella Islamist group that appears to have almost a stranglehold over a major council in the East End of London,' said one local resident. …