Sunday, 17 April 2011
Islamic extremists in Britain are ordering women to cover up and issuing threats to gays as they seek to impose Taliban-style sharia law.

Police are investigating a series of religiously motivated incidents, including the case of an Asian shop assistant who claims to have received death threats for refusing to wear a veil even though she is not a practising Muslim.

The pharmacy where she works has been told it will be boycotted unless she is forced to dress more modestly or sacked. Zealots have also daubed black paint on posters for the H&M fashion chain, which feature women in bikinis.

The extremists appear to have taken the law into their own hands in Tower Hamlets, east London, one of the poorest areas of Britain where native white people are in a minority.

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“If we keep going this way, England will be more like Afghanistan,” said the shop assistant who has been targeted by fundamentalists. “This is supposed to be the land of freedom. Yet I now fear for my security.”

The woman, 31, a mother of one who does not want to be identified, has worked at the pharmacy in Whitechapel for four years. Although she came to Britain from Bangladesh in 2006, she is an atheist and is married to a Christian human rights worker. She dresses in western clothes.

Three weeks ago, an Asian man in his forties approached her boss and told him that she ought to cover her head and wear longer robes. “If she keeps working here and continues to dress like that, then we will boycott you because this is a Muslim area,” the chemist’s owner was told.

When the woman approached the media about her case, there was a further backlash. She says another Asian man — this time younger — came into the pharmacy and started shouting at her.

“He said, ‘If you keep doing these things, we are going to kill you.’ It is the Muslim jihad [holy war],” said the woman. Her employer — a Hindu — told her to go on “holiday” for a few days and she now fears she will lose her job or be moved to another branch of the chemist.

The woman was interviewed by police last Thursday and her case has been taken up by Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. “Why should I have to wear a hijab [headscarf] or burqa? I haven’t done anything wrong,” said the woman.

Homophobic stickers have also sprung up in the borough. They state: “Arise and warn. Gay free zone. Verily Allah is severe in punishment.”

The campaign follows the defacing of posters at bus shelters in the area. Adverts featuring female models for H&M were splattered with black paint. Posters for a Bollywood film called Kites, which showed its stars in a passionate embrace, were also targeted. Police have charged three men with religiously aggravated criminal damage. Similar acts of crude censorship are believed to have been carried out in parts of Birmingham.

Paul Rickett, Metropolitan police borough commander for Tower Hamlets, said there was nothing to link all the incidents. “I am saddened that there are a small minority of people who do not wish to respect the lifestyle choices of others,” he said.

Ghaffar Hussain, head of outreach and training at the Quilliam Foundation, an antiextremism think tank, described the intimidation as the work of “Talibanesque thugs”. “This minority believe they have the right to enforce their fringe interpretation of Islam on others.”


Source: Sunday Times

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