The bitter election battle in the East End has spilled into violence, with extremist Muslims and anti-war protesters targeting George Galloway and Oona King.
Anti-war campaigner Mr Galloway was forced to take refuge from Islamic militants who denounced him as a “false prophet”.
The former Labour MP said “the police saved my life” after supporters of radical group Hizb-Ut-Tahrir clashed with members of his Respect party last night.
Labour’s Ms King had her car tyres slashed and the vehicle was pelted with eggs by a gang of youths angry at her support for the Iraq war. Both incidents triggered fears for the safety of Mr Galloway and Ms King as they prepared for a stormy hustings meeting in Bethnal Green and Bow tonight.
Labour’s 10,000 majority in the seat is under serious threat from Respect and the contest has been marked by some of the most vitriolic campaigning in the general election.
Mr Galloway was electioneering on the Osier council estate in Bethnal Green last night when a gang of 30 Muslim fundamentalists, who claim voting is un-Islamic, surrounded him and his supporters.
The men said they were angry at Mr Galloway’s attempt to woo Muslim voters. They said they were “setting up the gallows” for him and warned any Muslim who voted for his anti-war Respect party that they faced a “sentence of death”.
After a fight broke out between the two groups, police were called and Mr Galloway was forced to hide in his car in an alley until the violence calmed down. Two men were later arrested.
One resident said: “I heard shouting and looked out into the street to see a large group of Asian men. Many of them were fighting.
“There were punches and kicks thrown, then a large number of police arrived and broke up the riot.”
Speaking to the Standard minutes after the attack, Mr Galloway said it was clear the men were worried that he could become MP for an area with a large Muslim population.
“I was meeting people who live in the flats. Hizb-ut-Tahrir suddenly filled the room and blocked the door. I tried speaking calmly. They then said I was parading as a false prophet and served a sentence of death on me. They were claiming I was representing myself as a false deity and for this apostasy I would be sentenced to the gallows,” he said.
“They said they were setting up the gallows for me. Thank God my daughter was not with me. She was in the car outside. Otherwise there would have been nobody to call the police. The police saved my life.” The former MP is challenging Labour’s Oona King in the seat on 5 May, but Hizb-ut-Tahrir has declared that it will fight his bid.
Mr Galloway, who is due to share a platform with the leader of Hizb-ut-Tahrir on Saturday at a debate on Muslims and politics, said he was being targeted because he offered a democratic solution to Muslims. Hizb-ut-Tahrir is not illegal but it has been banned from university campuses for stirring trouble between Jewish and Muslim students. It supports Palestinian suicide bombers.
Last night’s incident came hours after another group of Muslim men disrupted a general election media meeting of the Muslim Council of Britain. A group thought to be followers of cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed attacked the Council, claiming no one should vote in the election.
Ms King came under attack from Respect supporters at the weekend, it emerged today. One Labour activist, Mohamed Chowdhury, said: “We left the area to chants of “Oona get out’ and ‘get out of our estate’ and were attacked with eggs again. However, when we returned to the car in Toynbee Street we found it covered in eggs. As we got in the car, more eggs were thrown”.
Police are investigating. Witnesses claim the youths wore Respect badges, but there is no suggestion that Mr Galloway knew about or condoned the violence.