Anti-booze Muslim group banned
AN Islamist group that marched in Brick Lane against the sale of alcohol has been banned by the Government, making membership a criminal offence.
The Shariah Project was among three groups proscribed by the Home Office this week for fronting a banned “terrorist organisation” which keeps changing its name to avoid prosecution.
The Shariah Project demonstration in Brick Lane last December, led by members in Whitechapel, saw hate preacher Anjem Choudhury tell Muslims to “fear Allah” and stop selling alcohol, which the group said is “destroying society”.
But Muslim off-licence owners and restaurateurs hit back at the group, saying they would continue to sell alcohol if they wished, and would not be told how to practice their religion by Choudhury.
Kabir Hussain, 38, who works in a Brick Lane restaurant, said:
This guy’s coming trying to teach us about our religion. I told him to preach somewhere else. We are Muslims, we are not drinking. But we can’t stop other people drinking. It’s your choice.
Azmal Hussain, 62, chair of Brick Lane caterers association, confronted Mr Choudary as the march fizzled out.
I told him, ‘shut up, I really mean it’. This is for us a livelihood, our bread and butter. I’m not drinking, but he’s saying we can’t serve it.
Malique Shah, 45, who has worked in a Brick Lane off-licence for 20 years, said:
If we didn’t sell alcohol we couldn’t stay here. In one week we would have to close shop and go away … Brick Lane is a famous place and many different people come here. Without alcohol Brick Lane will be dead.
Salman Farsi from the London Muslim Centre said:
While Islam may prohibit the consumption and sale of alcohol for Muslims, it is not for any particular groups to impose those views on others, nor bully other communities.
Security Minister James Brokenshire, announcing the ban, said:
Terrorist organisations should not be allowed to escape proscription simply by acting under a different name. That is why we have laid an order which will recognise Need4Khilafah, The Shariah Project and the Islamic Dawah Association as aliases of the group already proscribed as both Al Ghurabaa and The Saved Sect. The group is also known as Al Muhajiroun.
This means being a member of or supporting the organisation is a criminal offence.
Al Ghurabaa was first banned in 2006 for glorifying terrorism, including at a famous protest in London against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in Denmark the year before.
A study in 2012 by the Henry Jackson Society found that 18 per cent of all terrorism convictions in the UK over a ten year period were of people with links to the group.
Members of the group verbally abused returning soldiers at a protest in Wootten Basset in 2009, an incident which helped spark the formation of the English Defence League.
Three men linked to the group were jailed in December for terrorising members of the public in the East End as part of what they called “Muslim Patrols”.
• The top photograph shows Abdul Muhid from Whitechapel campaigning against the drinking and sale of alcohol. Photo: David Mirzoeff