LONDON (RNS) The increasing isolation of Britain's Muslim community is leading to stepped-up attacks against Muslims and a sense that Muslims can act like "idiots" against outsiders in some parts of the city, British government and Muslim leaders say.
Parts of London's East End have turned into Muslims-only zones, they say, where gays and lesbians are harassed, men are forced to pour alcoholic drinks down the gutter and women have been ordered to cover their bare skin.
That has helped widen the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims, said Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Britain's Minister for Faith and Communities, and led to a "slippery slope" that enables extremists on both sides to advance "their twisted interests unchecked."
"I believe an attack on a Muslim is an attack on a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu or a Sikh," she said Thursday (Jan. 24)
Muslim religious leaders, too, are concerned about the fundamentalists who have carved out Muslims-only ghettos.
"They're idiots and they must be stopped now," said Fiyaz Mughal, director of the London-based Faith Matters organization. "This helps fuel anger and racial and religious prejudice. You can also call them fascists."
Warsi called for updated statistics on anti-Muslim hate crimes, and endorsed a new "Anti-Muslim Attacks" campaign organized by Mughal.
Posters telling Muslims to report hate crimes to the police are going up in all of Britain's main towns and cities.
Last year, the government's Home Office reported 43,748 hate crimes; 1,621 (4 percent ) were based on religion. The government does not break down the figures to show which faiths came under attack.
Warsi cited a recent YouGov opinion survey which showed that 77 percent of Britons believe Islam poses a threat to Western civilization, and 76 percent believe Muslims do not fit in with the British way of life.
Mughal said while it is important to condemn hate crimes against Muslims, it is equally important to expose the activities of Islamic isolationists, like a small group in London's Whitechapel area who are trying to impose their values on other people.
"They claim they live in Muslim parts of London," he said. "One of these idiots was speaking outside a mosque which just happens to be almost next door to a synagogue. Some Muslim area."