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After Londonistan

Christopher Caldwell

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"Behold!" reads an official police notice on the waiting-room wall at the Bethnal Green police station, in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets. "Fear from people should not prevent one from saying the truth if he knows it." It is a hadith saying of the Prophet Muhammad, stuck amid a row of posters urging Britons to do their civic duty and report any crimes they might get wind of. Tower Hamlets, which includes large Bengali and Somali communities, is a majority-minority borough. Someone there apparently felt that the hadith poster might help woo those for whom civic duty was an insufficient spur. Today, Britain has more than a million and a half Muslims. A million live in London, where they make up an eighth of the population. They are not just the refugees and tempest-tossed laborers of the developing world, large though those groups may be. London's West End is full of Saudi princes and financiers, and journalists and politicians from around the Arab world; its East End is home to erudite theologians from the Indian subcontinent, along with some unhinged ones. In the 1980's and 90's, a hands-off government allowed London to become a haven for radicals and a center for calls to jihad. Culturally and politically (and theologically and gastronomically), London ranks among the capitals of the Muslim world and is certainly its chief point of contact with the United States and the rest of the West. Since last July 7, when four young British Muslims used backpack bombs to take their own lives and those of 52 others on London's public-transport system, getting information out of the city's various Muslim communities has become a desperate preoccupation of British law enforcement.

Read the entire article on the New York Times website (new window will open).

Posted: 27-Jun-06



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