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Sharia Law Takes Control
As Islamic extremists declare Britain's first Sharia law zone, the worrying social and moral implications

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According to this year's Global Islamic Finance Report, Britain is now the main centre for Islamic finance outside the Muslim world.

Baroness Cox, a crossbench peer and campaigner for Muslim women, has highlighted the dangers of the increasing influence of extreme factions within Islamic culture.

She says: 'As the Muslim population has grown, and the state-sponsored creed of multiculturalism has become ever more powerful, so Sharia law has strengthened its grip on our society.

'This is a recipe for disaster, because different legal systems for people of different religions will promote divisions between communities. Not only that, Sharia courts discriminate terribly against women. Sharia treats women as second-class citizens, whether it be in inheritance rights or divorce. In Sharia courts, a woman's word counts for only half the value of that of a man.

'Polygamy is also tolerated, with men allowed to take multiple wives. I know of Muslim women being subjected to savage domestic violence, and then refused a divorce, while their husbands are free to enter into further marriages to women from overseas.'

Equally worried about the growth of the pro-Sharia campaign is Alan Craig, a former Newham councillor who has lived in East London for 30 years. He says: 'This is the public tip of a hidden iceberg.'

Mr. Craig says he believes the campaign for Sharia zones has more widespread support among Muslims than the authorities are prepared to admit. 'I would like to think that the campaign is orchestrated by extremists, and is only supported by a small group of their followers; but I fear that it is not the case.'

A recent poll by research organisation ICM of 500 Muslim families revealed that 40 per cent supported the introduction of the strict religious code in Britain. Another, by the right-leaning Policy Exchange, found that more than one-third of young Muslims would be happy to live under Sharia rules.

No doubt such findings will invigorate Mr Izzadeen and his sidekicks. They include Anjem Choudary, a British-born convert to Islam and the former leader of the extremist organisation Islam4UK, which was banned by the Government.

Its supporters, who included Izzadeen, had called for the Islamic flag to fly over Downing Street, and some of its members burned poppies on Armistice Day last year in central London.

Of course, it would be easy to dismiss all this as the rantings of a lunatic fringe, but when I met Izzadeen this week, he boasted that scores of young Britons are converting to Islam. Indeed, a substantial number of the girls in hijabs walking past us in the shopping mall appeared to be of white, English descent.

When I approached one, who said she was called 'Abi' and was aged 18, she was at first reluctant to speak.

Then, in a Cockney accent, she said: 'I have not been forced into anything. I was a Christian of sorts, but now I have, like a lot of my friends, embraced Islam. It makes me feel better about my life.

'I was at school with Muslim girls, and they helped me make up my mind. I think that Sharia law would work here.'

Meanwhile, a British-born 17-year-old Islamic radical, calling himself 'Jamaal Uddin' (after a famous Afghan reformer of the 19th century) was busy putting up Sharia posters. The bearded red-head was wearing Muslim dress and said he 'embraced Islam' 11 months ago.

'Allah has told me, and many other converts, that alcohol, drugs, pornography, music and concerts are all forbidden under Sharia. That it is why it is our duty to go out and spread his word.'

Izzadeen, who was released from jail last autumn after serving four years for inciting racial hatred and raising funds for terrorism plots (infamously, he once called for British soldiers serving in Iraq to be beheaded), is proud of all his new recruits.

A former electrician, his real name is Trevor Brooks and he was brought up by Jamaican-born parents in Hackney before converting to Islam at the age of 17. Now married with three children, he lives on welfare hand-outs, though these are frowned on by Islam, which forbids begging by the healthy. Cynically, he calls them 'the jihad-seekers allowance'.

Warming to his cause, he says: 'Sharia is a political system which is well-supported by the youth in Waltham Forest. They want to follow the rules of Islam because they are sick of what Western society offers them.

'Look at the rapes, the brothels near the mosques, the drunkenness on the streets. Do you think the youth want that?'

But the vast majority of British Muslims are offended by such hardline rules. Mohammed Illyas, general secretary of Waltham Forest mosque, has stated clearly: 'We condemn these kinds of views, and if they come to the mosque preaching this kind of thing, they would be thrown out.'

Such concerns over extremist Islamic influence on all aspects of society in the area are growing  among many Muslims.

Nilgin Aslan, a 51-year-old Muslim mother, recently took her daughters to a fete organised by a Waltham Forset Islamic group called Noor Ul-Islam and held at a local cricket ground. At the entrance, the girls, who were wearing vest tops, were given T-shirts to cover their shoulders.

Their mother says: 'We agreed to put them on, but it was a hot afternoon, and when my daughters later tried to take off the T-shirts, an official told them to cover up or they would be arrested.

'They took the T-shirts on and off three times before we got fed up of being told off, and left.

'I was disgusted. It was supposed to be an event for the whole community. I think it gave a bad name to all Muslims.'

Hasib Hussain, one of the fete's female officials, explained afterwards that the T-shirts were only given to 'women dressed inappropriately with low-cut tops'.

No doubt, this decision would have pleased Abu Izzadeen and his pro-Sharia zealots.

But as he marches through London's streets today, waving the banners of Muslims Against Crusades, the great irony will undoubtedly be lost on him that if Sharia law really ever took hold in this country, such public demonstrations would almost certainly be prohibited.