‘Eurabia’ has become a popularly employed neologism in recent years to describe the slow melding of cultures in Europe. Those fearful of an eventual eclipse of European civilization by a fast growing Muslim population have emphasized Europe’s ever widening acceptance of Muslim practices and beliefs – even when they directly conflict with notions of Western morality and accepted behavior.
But as events in London last week clearly demonstrate, political developments on the continent may be fast outstripping the pace of cultural transformation. The startling election of the Islamist Lutfur Rahman as the first executive mayor of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets could offer us a harrowing glimpse into Europe’s Eurabian future.
Mr. Rahman belongs to the Islamic Forum of Europe, an organization which has expressed contempt for democracy and support for jihad and the imposition of sharia law on British society. In March, the Channel 4 program Dispatches, undertaking an investigate report of the organization, found that Islamist influences were dominant in the organization. Azad Ali, the IFE’s community affairs coordinator in London, was quoted declaring: “Democracy……..if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that.” A 2009 recruitment manual for the group states its program in unequivocal language:
“Our goal is not simply to invite people and give da’wah [call to the faith]. Our goal is to create the True Believer, to then mobilise those believers into an organised force for change who will carry out da’wah, hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law] and jihad [struggle]. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen [an Islamic social, economic and political order].”
The organization maintains close ties with the East London Mosque in which Jammat al Islami – a fundamentalist Bangladeshi Islamic party, holds sway.
After the Dispatches broadcast, the former U.K. Minister for the Environment, Jim Fitzpatrick, took up the anti-IFE banner claiming that the IFE had a carefully constructed plan to infiltrate the British Labour Party:
“They are acting almost as an entryist organisation, placing people within the political parties, trying to get individuals selected and elected so they can exercise political influence and power.”
The rise of a politically active class of Islamic fundamentalists has long been expected in Europe but few thought their rise would be so swift and sudden in Britain. Due to some recent voter approved structural changes in the political organization of the Borough, the new mayor of the town has almost sole authority over a nearly $1 billion budget. His authority to effect change to Borough rules and regulations is without precedent in the history of local British government.
What, then, can the non-Muslim denizens of Tower Hamlets now expect?
Construction projects for one – such as the so-called “Hijab Gates” – huge arches in the shape of the Muslim veil – at either end of the area’s famous Brick Lane. Community libraries filled, as they have been over the past two years, with extremist Islamic literature; Streets renamed with Islamic motifs ( many street signs already appear in English and Bengali); Major community thoroughfares blocked and closed down in celebration of the Eid Festival; and the increasing harassment of Muslim and non- Muslim women who dress immodestly ( as was witnessed during the mayoral election campaign).
It is natural for certain areas of large Western cities to go through significant demographic change over time. The East End of London, after all, once maintained a very strong Jewish population and flavor. But at no time could the area have ever been described as controlled by Jewish law.
That Tower Hamlets may indeed become the first of its kind in Europe – an autonomous Islamic enclave governed primarily by Islamic law – is a worrying development that no one in Europe now has the luxury to ignore.