By Anura Hegoda
Jan 01 2014
The union of England and Scotland materialised in 1707 creating the United Kingdom. Islam has been present in the UK since its formation. Although they were a small group by then, the first large group of Muslims arrived in the UK as sailors to work for the British India Company.
The majority of them came from Sylhet, the north east division of Bangladesh, Yemen and a few other countries. Most of them settled in sea port areas around the UK and married local women.
A house in the Welsh city of Cardiff was used by Yemeni sailors in 1860s as a place of worship and was registered as the first mosque in the United Kingdom. By 2011, the number of mosques increased to 1,500 all over UK. According to the last census, nearly three million Muslims live here. It includes 250,000 white British and English Muslims and converts. In 2011 it was reported that the United Kingdom had around 100,000 who converted to Islam. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the UK. The Muslim population has increased almost 10 times faster than the non-Muslim population during the last decade.
Although the majority of Muslims in UK are law abiding citizens, a small group of hard liners try different ways. The situation came to a turning point last week when a small Muslim group attempted to enforce Sharia law in a city called Walthamstow in East London by distributing leaflets and pasting posters.
Previously, there were a few incidents of harassment and intimidation by a self-styled 'Muslim Patrol' vigilante group in London claiming they were enforcing the Sharia law.
They targeted a couple walking holding hands, a group of men who were drinking outside in a part of East Central London and a girl because of the way she was dressed. The court heard that the group used a megaphone to yell at the couple holding hands and shouted: "Let go off each other's hands. This is a Muslim area". Some members of the group have been sent to prison.
The situation turned worse last week. Owners of shops and supermarkets in the East London City where posters were displayed to impose Sharia law developed a tension of racial hatred.
The leader of a formerly banned Al-Muhajiroun Islamist group said: "What we did was we posted a notice to shop owners saying that under Sharia, the sale of alcohol is prohibited while if one consumed alcohol he would get 40 lashes. We were there to teach the people about the Sharia law."
Hearing his comments, the English Defence League is gearing up for a confrontation soon.
Meanwhile, Britain is set to become the first non-Muslim country to sell a bond that can be bought only by Islamic investors in a bid to encourage massive new investment into the City.
The new Sharia-compliant gilt will enable Britain to become the first non-Muslim country to tap the growing pool of Islamic investments that is forecast to top pounds 1.3 trillion by next year.
The Prime Minister will say that it would be a "mistake" to miss the opportunity to encourage more Islamic investment in the UK when Islamic finance is growing 50 percent faster than traditional banking and when global Islamic investments are set to grow to pounds 1.3 trillion by 2014".
It has been noticed that there is an increase of honour killings and related incidents in the UK. Recently a man was convicted of killing his brother's wife because 'she was too powerful'. Defendant brothers, both older men, believed that a woman was disposable if she became too powerful.
Another man was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his daughter, accusing her of being too westernised. Her body has never been found.
It is said that in the 1960s, Walthamstow, East London area in question was a good neighbourhood where Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus lived in harmony.
But after the 1979 Iranian revolution, Western clothes sprinkled with Shalwar Kameez and gorgeous saris began to give way to Hijabs and Abayas for the women, long coats and beards for the men. Then the Hijabs became Niqabs, and the Niqabs became Burquas.
United Kingdom is a place where freedom of religion, expression and speech is exercised to the maximum. Tolerance is at its peak. But God knows for how long. As in some other parts of the world a small group can destroy it.