5 Apr 2019

FactCheck: viral video doesn’t show violence in a ‘Sharia Law Zone’ in London

This video is shockingly violent – but it doesn’t show what many people say it does.

A video entitled “Christian woman defends a Buddist (sic) praying in a ‘Sharia Law Zone’ in London when she is knocked unconscious!!!” has been watched more than 400,000 times on Twitter.

It is attracting considerable attention from anti-Muslim far-right social media users, many of them based in the United States.

The video does contain shocking footage of a man punching a woman in a London street.

But almost everything else being said about it is false.

What happens in the video?

The best quality version we can find is here. It was uploaded on to YouTube on 2018.

Another version of the incident, filmed by the woman who was punched, is here. Some readers may find it distressing to watch.

We see Muslim men praying on the pavement outside an Islamic centre in a London street.

A man kneels down in front of the worshippers and begins a loud monologue, to the annoyance of various people at the scene.

Some pushing and shouting ensues, then the woman who is also filming the scene on her phone is punched in the face by a heavily-built white man. She is shown lying on the pavement afterwards.

The attack took place on Friday, September 14, 2018.

Who are these people?

The man who kneels in front of the Muslim men praying will be well known to visitors of London’s Speaker’s Corner, an area of Hyde Park that is traditionally the scene of soapbox speeches and heated public debate.

He calls himself Tan, is understood to be a Malaysian national, and has a long history of confronting Muslims who attend Speaker’s Corner, sometimes saying things like: “I hate Islam and I don’t like Muslims.”

Tan makes liberal use of the swastika on T-shirts, placards and online material – a symbol obviously associated with the Nazis, but one that is also considered holy in several eastern religions.

Critics describe him as an Islamophobe, but Tan evidently sees himself as a radical defender of free speech, including the right to offend people and mock their religious beliefs.

It’s obvious from the video that he has come to publicly confront the Muslim men praying – as he has done on other occasions – rather than to offer Buddhist prayers.

While he does mutter phrases that sound like fragments of a Buddhist mantra, he also shouts nonsense like “this is the holy juice of Tango” and “hallelujah – gay power”.

Tan’s website describes a mock religion of his own creation, states that “religion is a joke” and describes his activities as “performance”.

The woman filming the performance on a mobile phone is called Amy Beth Dallamura.

She is also a well-known face at Speaker’s Corner, where she has been filmed waving bacon sandwiches in the faces of Muslims.

Miss Dallamura is also a vocal supporter of far-right activist Tommy Robinson and has been photographed at his public appearances.

Who punches her?

The assumption being made by many people sharing this Twitter post and commenting on it is that the man who punches Miss Dallamura is himself one of the Muslim worshippers, but there are several reasons to think that this wrong.

The man is clearly walking along the street with a dog when he stops and gets involved in the angry confrontation. There is nothing that connects him to the men praying on the pavement.

The man is heard to say to Tan: “They’re praying outside their mosque.” Note the use of the word “they” rather than “we”.

It would also be very unlikely that an observant Muslim would wear shorts and bring a dog (traditionally shunned in Islam) to Friday prayers.

In fact, we know who the man who punches Miss Dallamura is, as the Met Police arrested him shortly after the attack and he has now been convicted and sentenced.

Patrick Perry, 54, of Westminster, was found guilty of common assault in his absence after failing to show up at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last month.

Perry was given 16 weeks imprisonment for the assault and a further four weeks for failing to attend the trial – both suspended for two years.

A Patrick Perry of the same address comes up in Westminster Council documents after he wrote in support of a local pub that wanted to extend its licence to serve alcohol outside.

All the evidence – his name, the way he is dressed, his dog, the words he uses and his apparent fondness for pubs – suggests that Mr Perry is not connected to the men praying on the street and is unlikely to be a practising Muslim.

Is this a “Sharia Law Zone”?

There is a popular canard among right-wing commentators in the US that Islamic law holds sway in some London neighbourhoods with large Muslim populations, and that the situation is tolerated by the authorities.

In fact, there is no evidence that such zones exist anywhere in the capital. The closest thing we can find is the notorious case of the “Muslim patrol” phenomenon of 2013, when a small number of young Muslim men filmed themselves harassing passers-by in east London, claiming that they were enforcing Sharia law.

This behaviour was not tolerated by London’s police, as evidenced by the fact that five men were arrested and three ultimately jailed for offences relating to the “patrols”. The local mosque also condemned their actions.

Clearly, the scene of the attack shown in this video is not operating according to a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The location is Berwick Street in Soho, a central London entertainment district with a large openly gay community. Homosexuality is generally not tolerated in societies where sharia law holds sway.

The Islamic Centre is next to a fancy-dress shop, and there is a very un-Islamic hot dog stand right next to where the assault takes place. The surrounding streets are home to numerous pubs and sex shops.

It is fair to say that the practice of Muslims praying in public places has its critics. Equally, the issue is less of a talking point in London than in Paris, where protests have led to bans on street prayers.

The verdict

This viral video is shockingly violent – but it doesn’t show what many people say it does.

There is no evidence that the man who threw the punch is connected to the worshippers at the Islamic Centre, so this simply is not a story about Muslims attacking people of other religions.

It is of course nonsense to say that “Sharia Law Zones” exist in the heart of London’s hard-drinking gay-friendly entertainment district Soho – or anywhere else in the capital.