Along with the huge increase in violence and aggression that has occurred at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park London, over the last year, there has been a huge increase in Islamic prayer.
Small groups praying is not new, discretely undertaking their prayer aside on the grass or in the distance away from the main area used for Speakers Corner. However, over the last year, the numbers praying have increased significantly. Between 20 to over 100 bums point to the sky every week as they pray to their friend in the sky. Where they undertake their prayer has also altered, they have moved their prayer more and more into the central area of Speakers Corner, where Speakers and those who listen or heckle gather.
Another change is the laying out of long tarpaulins and prayer mats from early in the morning, which then remain throughout the entire day, laying out and marking their “official” area of prayer for the day.
This is followed by the very loud call to prayer, made again in the middle of the Corner, amongst any other Speakers or people.
And make sure you don’t interrupt, disrupt or invade the permanent prayer space they have created, as that would be disrespectful.
The area used for prayer was getting larger, more forced into the centre of the Corner, louder calls to prayer, more intimidation and violence if their created space wasn’t fully respected. More concern that Speakers Corner itself was gradually being turned into a mosque, a place solely for Islamic prayer and worship, gazebos and other more permanent structures would be soon to follow. Their domain, where they control what is done, what is said and what is not said.
Many people were becoming conscious of this gradual creep of Islamisation of the Corner, the attempt to control and alter the historic practices and traditions of Speakers Corner. Action was needed!
Research was undertaken into the rules and regulations that govern Speakers Corner. Speakers Corner sits within Hyde Park, which is managed and governed by The Royal Parks. What materialised, to the astonishment of everyone, was that The Royal Parks (TRP) have a clear policy not permitting any collective acts of worship anywhere within the TRP estate. The policy is published on their website for all to read.
TRP were contacted to check the detail and whether the policy was still relevant. TRP confirmed the policy was not new, had not changed, was still in place and that they have no plans to alter or repeal it. The Muslim behaviour of prayer was clearly in complete breach of TRP regulations.
TRP clarified that it is the Police’s responsibility to enforce the position on collective worship. Despite the Hyde Park Metropolitan Police sharing the very same office as TRP, this message appeared not to have been shared.
In a separate piece of correspondence, TRP confirmed that they alone had received an astounding 232 written complaints regarding praying at Speakers Corner during the last two years, this in addition to large numbers of telephone calls and separate complaints made to the Police.
Following a number of conversations with members of the public highlighting the increasing prayer, the Police have now finally started to enforce the policy on Collective worship. The prayer appears to have stopped for now. We wait to see whether this will continue, whether the Muslims will continue to comply with the rules.
Next article: Speakers Corner some special visitors