Ben didn’t mind when immigrants from Pakistan began moving into his neighbourhood in Bradford. He had always considered himself to be open and tolerant. It didn’t phase him when they took over all the local shops. He found the new proprietors to be quite friendly. Even when his friends began making jokes about him living in “Bradistan” and needing a passport to come to his house, he still didn’t change his views. When a mosque opened a few streets away, he reasoned, “They need some place to pray.” He just made sure he didn’t have to go out in his car during Friday evening prayers. The evening his teenage daughter came home upset because some young men spat at her for wearing a short skirt, he was sympathetic of course, but he used it to teach her about modesty. “They only spat at you, other men could have done worse,” he explained. Yes, Ben Hampton thought he was a very tolerant person.
That was before the local Muslims declared that he was now living in a “Sharia Zone.” Signs began appearing around the area in a half mile radius of the mosque. Little yellow signs that read, “Sharia Zone, No Alcohol, No Drugs, No Prostitution” sprang up on practically every street corner in the neighbourhood.
At first, Ben thought little of it. If they didn’t want those things, that was ok with him. That all changed the evening he was coming home from the local shop. As he neared his home, five men all aged between 18 and 30 and of Pakistani origin surrounded him in the street.
“Let me see what’s in your bag,” one of them demanded aggressively.
Instinctively, Ben clutched his bag tighter and responded defensively, “No you can’t, my shopping his none of your business.”
“It is our business!” the man retorted. “You are on Muslim ground and it is an offence to Islam to have alcohol on Muslim ground.”
“I don’t care whose ground it is,” Ben countered. “You’re not looking in my shopping bag. Besides, I don’t have any alcohol.”
He started to go past them, but two of the men encircled him, roughly grabbing his arms. A third man grabbed the wrist that was holding the shopping bag and stripped Ben of it. He handed it over to the spokesman who took a look inside and seeing that Ben was telling the truth, grunted curtly and handed it back. His comrades then released their grip and together, the five of them walked off without even an apology.
After that, he did his best to avoid the “Sharia Patrols” and the one time he was stopped, he voluntarily handed the bag over for inspection. However, one evening, his friend wasn’t so fortunate. The friend was coming over to spend the evening with Ben and brought some beers with him. He was spotted by the same group of men and when he refused to offer up his bag, they threw him to the ground and held him there as the spokesman took all four cans of beer and emptied each one on the ground. They also warned him it would be worse the next time he brought alcohol onto Muslim ground. Obviously, he was in a bad state when he got to Ben’s house and at his suggestion, went to the police.
The police seemed sympathetic, but were largely unhelpful. The officer explained, “Since they have set up that Sharia Zone, crime in the area has fallen 70%, which makes us look good on the league tables. If we go in there and make arrests, we’ll be branded racists by the community and the press. But, they shouldn’t have been so rough with you, so we will have a word with the leaders as we do have a good relationship with them.” Neither Ben nor his friend felt reassured when they left the station.
From that evening on, Ben always made sure he had beer in his fridge, which he bought in the supermarket and transported by car. But even then, he didn’t feel totally safe from the Sharia Patrols. On a hot summer evening, he and a friend were drinking beers on the front steps when a group of Muslim men walked by and suddenly stopped.
“This is Islam territory, you can’t drink alcohol here,” one of them stated in a thick Pakistani accent.
“Well this is my property and I’ll do what I want on my property,” Ben explained. “Islam territory ends at the border of my property.”
“If we catch you drinking in our territory, you will pay the consequences,” the man threatened before he and his gang went on their way.
After that, every evening, British weather permitting, he would sit on his front steps and drink a beer. Most people took no notice of him and the Sharia Patrols would just give him dirty looks. Then one evening, a patrol of ten men stopped in front of his steps.
“All we ask is that you go in your house and drink,” a large man reasoned in a similar accent to previous speakers.
“I’m still on my property, I’m not hurting anyone and I mean no offence to your religion,” Ben replied calmly.
Suddenly, four men rushed onto the steps and using their combined weight, pinned Ben onto the steps sending the can of beer rolling down them. The speaker picked it up and poured out the remainder of the liquid. Meanwhile, three more ran past the restrained Ben and into the house. The three men barged past Ben’s wife, their fury further fuelled by the fact she was dressed for the summer. They yelled, “Get out of our way, English whore!” as they went into the kitchen. One of them opened the refrigerator door and took out the two remaining beers and ceremoniously poured both cans down the sink.
“Now you will respect Islam!” the large man shouted before they let Ben go and left.
Ben and his wife gave full accounts of what happened as well as good descriptions of the men involved to the police, but it did little good.
“The best we can prosecute them for is “Unlawful Entry,” the sergeant explained. “Besides, you drank in plain view of them, it could be said that you were trying to provoke them.”
“What?” Ben queried horrified at what he just heard. “I wasn’t trying to provoke anyone, but no one tells me what I can do in my own home.”
“But you weren’t in your home, were you?” the sergeant returned. “You were standing outside your house on your front step where people could see you. That could be seen as trying to provoke them.”
“What about them provoking me?” Ben suddenly asked. “I shouldn’t have to be stopped and searched by gangs or told what I can or can’t drink, especially in my own country!”
“Now, now, there’s no need to be racist,” the sergeant cautioned.
“I’m not racist! But nobody has the right to force their beliefs on others,” Ben found himself saying.
“No one’s trying to impose their beliefs on you,” the sergeant said in an attempt to calm Ben.
But it didn’t. Ben bellowed, “They did exactly that when they turned my
neighbourhood into an Islamic state!”
“Now, that is racist.”
“This is bollocks!” Ben finally shouted before leaving the room. On his exit, the sergeant inquired, “I suppose you don’t want us to pursue this any further.”
“Do what you want,” Ben muttered under his breath.
. . . . .
Two Weeks Later
His new haircut still felt strange, but Ben thought it was appropriate as he entered the building. The sweet looking young lady sitting behind a long table gave him doubts as to if he was in the right place. Those doubts began to increase when she asked in an equally sweet voice, “Can I help you?”
He hesitated for a moment, the poster on the wall behind the lady affirmed he was definitely in the right place. “Yes,” he began, “I would like to join the British National Party.”