3 members of 'Muslim patrol' in London jailed for harassing people behaving in 'unIslamic' manner

LONDON (AFP) - Three members of a self-styled "Muslim patrol" in London who harassed passers-by for wearing short skirts, holding hands and drinking alcohol have been jailed, in a conviction welcomed by the local mosque on Saturday.

The men were jailed for up to 16 months on Friday after admitting a variety of public order and assault charges during "patrols" in December 2012 and January 2013.

One of the incidents was filmed by the gang and posted on YouTube, causing widespread public outrage and raising tensions in an area already targeted by far-right groups because of its large Muslim population.

"These men routinely threatened and intimidated innocent members of the public whom they perceived to be behaving in an 'unIslamic' manner," said prosecutor Baljit Ubhey.

"They would roam the streets, seeking out victims whom they could target, and chanting threats to 'kill the non-believers'.

"On the nights in question they confronted and aggressively intimidated a couple who were holding hands in the street, a group of friends who were drinking alcohol, and a girl whom they deemed to be dressed provocatively."

Some of the patrols took place near the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, which hosts 7,000 worshippers on a typical Friday and has strongly condemned the harassment.

The mosque says Muslims in the area have been attacked and it has received hate mail as a result of the patrols.

Executive director Dilowar Khan welcomed Friday's convictions, saying bullying was unIslamic and the men's actions were "pathetic".

"We hope these three men will take time during their incarceration to reflect upon the hurt and damage they have caused not only to their victims, but to the entire British Muslim community," he said.

Jordan Horner was jailed for 68 weeks after pleading guilty to actual bodily harm, threatening behaviour and public order offences, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Ricardo Macfarlane received 12 months after admitting affray, while a third man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to 24 weeks for public order offences.

A spokesman for the mosque told Agence France-Presse the convicted men were not local to the area and were followers of Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary, a leader of the radical Al-Muhajiroun group.

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