A woman lays a floral tribute where an offduty soldier was hacked to death in London. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: In the past four months, police in East and South London have received a series of complaints after self-styled ‘Muslim patrols’ have accosted Londoners for wearing un-Islamic clothing, drinking alcohol or simply straying too close to mosques.

In videos posted on YouTube, one patrol approaches people in Fieldgate Street, close to the East London Mosque in Whitechapel.

Announcing their presence by calling themselves “vigilantes implementing Islam against your own necks”, one bearded young man says: “We are Muslims who patrol the area, forbidding evil.”

One woman in tight clothing is told to “remove yourself away from the mosque”, while other Londoners are told: “Go away now. Don’t come back. Keep your mouths closed.”

When a woman condemns their actions, one patrolling Muslim says: “We don’t care if you’re appalled at all. It’s not so Great Britain.”

The video was shot in a rough-and-tumble working class area of East London on a Saturday night and shows members of the patrol pouring cans of beer and other alcoholic drinks down drains.

The East London Mosque was quick to distance itself from the actions of the ‘patrol’, publishing a statement that reads: “These actions are utterly unacceptable and clearly designed to stoke tensions and sow discord. We wholly condemn them. The East London Mosque is committed to building cooperation and harmony between all communities in this borough. The actions of this tiny minority have no place in our faith nor on our streets. We will monitor the situation closely and our Imams will be speaking out against such actions.”

The Muslim patrols, however, are signs of growing tensions between young British-born Muslims who have been radicalised by the UK and West’s policies ever since the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7.

On Wednesday, two attackers hacked a British soldier to death on a Woolwich street. One of the attackers went on video to explain the crime — shouting political statements, gesturing with bloodied hands and waving a meat cleaver.

“We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” the man declared. “We must fight them as they fight us.” The camera then panned away to show a body lying on the ground.

Late Wednesday, riot police fanned out in Woolwich as about 50 men waving the flag of the far-right English Defence League, (EDL) gathered, singing nationalistic songs and shouting obscenities about the Quran.

Muslim religious groups and charities were quick to condemn the attack and urged police to calm tensions. The Muslim Council of Britain called it a “barbaric act that has no basis in Islam,” adding that “no cause justifies this murder”.

The Muslim patrols were a harbinger of violence to come, Maajid Nawaz, the chairman of the Quilliam Foundation, suggested. noting that as British jihadists venture abroad to capitalise on the aftermath of the Arab Spring and then return to the UK, they are likely to bring a greater level of violence back home.

Their actions could be “a sign of things to come” and are part of a pattern of extremism spreading across Europe in different forms, be it far right fascism or Islamism, Nawaz wrote in The Times. “While this street-level problem festers across Europe, Al Qaida and its affiliates are busy capitalising on the chaos of the post-Arab Spring world.

“Syria, Libya, Mali and Somalia are being ravaged by jihadist outfits, and all of them are attracting European-born Islamists seeking the thrill of real combat.

“Scores of young European-born Arabs and Somalis are following in the footsteps of British Pakistanis in travelling to lawless conflict zones. “What happens when these men, schooled in the use of political violence in far-flung places, return to Britain?”

London police have made a series of seven arrests for the Muslim patrol incidents in which one gang hurled abuse at a homosexual man and described white women as “naked animals with no self–respect”.

Countries such as Denmark and Spain have also seen Islamist extremists trying to enforce their own Sharia law, Nawaz noted. Nawaz is now a leading critic of his former Islamist ideological dogma, while remaining a Muslim. “But nobody wants to address this perspective from an Islamic or Sharia point of view to simply articulate that this is actually wrong Islamically.”

He added: “Islam was celebrated for allowing [non-Muslim] people who lived in an Islamic state to live according to their principles, their religion, their Sharia. “This is in the Muslim lands, in the time of the Caliphate. And we saw this video where, in the streets of Tower Hamlets, in the streets of England. Enough said right?”