Sharia Shuffle

Whitehall got rather crowded at times the other Sunday afternoon with four different groups of protesters. The instigation of it all was a protest by ‘One Law For All‘, a group combining various people opposed to the imposition of Sharia Law in the UK.  They include members of various secular and human rights organisations and a large group of Iranian human rights activists, trade unionists and socialists of various persuasions. The denial of equality for women in Islamic societies is one of their main complaints and they call for laws to be secular and completely separate from religion, both in Iran and in this country.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

One Law For All  also believe in freedom of religion, but not in the right of people to impose their particular religious beliefs – or laws that arise from them – on other people.  Laws should arise from principles such as equality and human rights and not from religious books and their interpretations. In England we still have some remnants of faith-based laws – such as those against blasphemy, but in general our laws have moved away from this over the years.

© 2010, Peter  Marshall
‘Sharia will dominate the World’

It clearly isn’t an Islamophobic movement, but  arouses vocal opposition from a small fringe group of fundamentalist Muslims who campaign for the UK to become an Islamic country.  This group, formerly Islam4UK but now calling itself Muslims Against the Crusades, is best known for its demonstrations at army home-coming parades, but was there a few yards down the road, using a high-power loudspeaker in an unsuccessful attempt to drown out the speeches at the One Law event. Fortunately police had places the two groups in pens separated by a few yards on Whitehall, and the rally was able to continue with few problems.

Next on the scene were around 20 or 30 members of the English Defence League, opposed to the increasing influence of Muslims on our former way of life in the UK. Some of the slogans they shouted were clearly Islamophobic, and One Law for all people clearly showed their disapproval of this. The police led them to a third pen, then searched most of the men and made sure they left the area.

© 2010, Peter  Marshall

At this point I said to Chris Knight who was also watching the protest that it was hard to know who would appear next. But we didn’t have too long to wait to find out, as around 40 minutes later a heavily policed group of young Asian men came up Whitehall. They were looking for the EDL, and came from an East End rally against the BNP and EDL, both labelled by them as racist organisations. By then the EDL were long gone, and it wasn’t at all clear what these young men, mainly Muslims,  felt about either the Muslim or One Law For All protests.

© 2010, Peter  Marshall

While the police were holding this last to arrive group on the west side of Whitehall just past Downing St, the One Law For All protest started on its march to another rally at the Iranian embassy in Kensington.  They had got several hundred yards ahead of me and I ran after them and took a short cut across Parliament Square (those tents were a bit in the way.) As I ran, my SB800 flash decided to part company with the D700, suggesting that it was not fixed on properly – which may well account for the flash problems I had.

The combination of the Nikon 16-35mm on the D700 and the Nikon 18-105mm on the D300 (27-158mm equivalent) is a good one, the little bit of overlap between the two coming in handy, and covered virtually all my needs for these demonstrations. For some events the 105mm isn’t quite long enough, and it’s good to have the lightweight Sigma 55-200mm DC in my bag, and of course also the 10.5mm fisheye. There aren’t that many situations where the fisheye will work,  but when you need it nothing else will do. I didn’t use it here, though I did take a few with the 55-200 where the police were keeping photographers apart from the young Asians.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

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