Some 60 Muslim protesters marched through
London’s East End December 15, demanding Muslim-owned businesses stop selling
alcohol and warning that “this is just the beginning.”
Protesters handed leaflets to shop owners warning
them they will face corporal punishment of 40 lashes for violating Shariah law.
The firebrand Muslim preacher Anjem Choudary, the
former leader of the Al-Muhajiroun group, which is banned here under anti-terrorist
laws, defended their actions. “We posted notices to the shop owners saying that
under Shariah and under the Quran the sale of alcohol is prohibited and if one
were to drink alcohol that would be 40 lashes,” Choudary said.
There are around 1.8 million Muslims in England.
Most live lives well away from extremist groups and their supporters.
Calls for such dire reprisals against Muslims who
sell alcohol brought instant reaction from other Muslims. “In Islamic teaching,
you shouldn’t drink alcohol but you can’t impose Islamic law on other people,”
said Usama Hasan, senior researcher at the London-based Quilliam Foundation,
whose goal is to challenge extremism and promote pluralism.
Meanwhile, the government has ordered British
universities not to bend to Muslim demands for gender-segregated audiences when
Muslim preachers and teachers address students.
Attacking demands from some Islamic students who
believe in a strict separation of the sexes in public places, Prime Minister
David Cameron said over the weekend: “I’m absolutely clear that there should
not be segregated audiences for visiting speakers to universities in Britain.”