Brick Lane is popular with revellers for its bars and restaurants PIC: Wikicommons
Brick Lane is popular with revellers for its bars and restaurants PIC: Wikicommons

A planned march by Muslims against the sale and consumption of alcohol in the hip heart of east London has drawn "overwhelming support" from around the country, organisers have claimed.

Protesters intend to protest on Friday in Brick Lane, Tower Hamlets, by targeting shops selling alcohol in a street famous for its trendy bars and curry restaurants.

The demonstrators said that selling booze was un-Islamic and caused social problems.

But critics fear that the event by the Shariah Project will be yet another source of division in the borough.

In September, Tower Hamlets witnessed the anti-Muslim English Defence League trying to march against Islam. Last week, three men who were part of a bogus "Muslim patrol" were jailed for threatening and beating up people they claimed had breached strict Islamic rules on alcohol and dress.

Abu Rumaysah, spokesman for the Waltham Forest-based Shariah Project, claimed that groups of Muslims would come from as far away as the Midlands to take part in the demonstration.

He forecast a turnout of "hundreds" instead of fewer than the 50 first expected. Police would be surprised at the scale of the turnout, he predicted.

Rumaysah, 30, told IBTimes UK: "We've had an overwhelming response from people supporting us from all over the country. Lots of them say they are coming and we will have groups from Luton, Birmingham, Derby and Leicester. There's also a big Muslim community in Tower Hamlets, so there should be a good turnout."

He insisted it would be a peaceful protest and rejected accusations that it could create disharmony.

Shariah the solution

"It's not fair to say this will cause division," said Rumaysah. "The most damaging thing is the alcohol. If you go in to the hospitals you can see the damage it does. This is a rally which is happening because we see the shariah in the UK as the solution for many of the fundamental problems the community faces.

"We are not going to be fighting anybody. But it would not stop us from protesting peacefully if some people did oppose us."  

Politicians in the borough have condemned the event as "provocative". The leader of the Labour group on Tower Hamlets Council said that the march threatened to divide communities in the borough, which is one of the most diverse in the country.

"Everyone has a right to peaceful protest but I urge the Shariah Project to think carefully about the impact their actions will have," said Cllr Sirajul Islam.

"While Muslims may choose to abstain from alcohol, it is not right to forcefully push one view upon others. Provocative attempts to push a radical shariah agenda will serve only to widen the divide between our communities," he said.

Tower Hamlets council is working with police on a response to the march. A spokesman told IBTimes UK: "We are in conversation with the police to preserve community cohesion. We support community cohesion and would not want the actions of a small group to impact on this." 

No response had been received from the police at the time of publication.