A Jewish neighborhood watch group has made headlines as the protectors of a large Muslim population in London.
Members of the Haredi Jewish community on Stamford Hill, London, have formed the Shomrim (Hebrew for guards) neighborhood watch group in 2008 in response to rising local crime. Shomrim groups in American cities date back to the 1970s.
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London police cooperate closely with the volunteers, according to an AFP report, which has led to close to 200 arrests last year, including the neighborhood’s “most wanted burglar.”
Now the Shomrim are receiving international praise for helping protect the area’s large Muslim population. It began with the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists in broad daylight, back in 2013.
Shomrim member Shulem Stern told AFP: “There was a spike in anti-Muslim hate crime. All over England, mosques were being firebombed.”
The Shomrim were approached by local councillors in Hackney, north London, to help fend against this wave of anti-Muslim hostilities
As Stern put it: “The councillors thought: ‘We’ve got Shomrim in the local area, who don’t we utilize them’?”
The Shomrim today continue to protect local mosques, as Muslim communities across Britain are fearing a new wave of reprisals following executions of British citizens in the Middle East by ISIS.
“In many ways they’re a really well organized neighborhood watch. They are very much the eyes and ears of the police, ” police Superintendent Andy Walker told AFP.
The Shomrim receive police training as well as defensive equipment such as protective vests. Once police realized the group was not planning to carry out vigilante acts, but rather to help maintain law and order, they’ve cultivated this positive relationship and rely on it in everyday operations.
And in Stamford Hill this means maintaining law and order for neighborhood Muslims.
“We are both sons of Abraham after all, ” said Ian Sharer, an Orthodox Jewish councillor.
Local Muslim councillor Dawood Akhoon told AFP the Muslim response had been “really good and positive. It’s part and parcel of each of our faiths, we have to take care of our environment and out neighbors.”
The relationship between Muslims and Jews were tested during this summer’s Gaza war, but, according to Councillor Sharer, “To the incredible credit of the Muslim community, there has not been one incident in this area. That’s down to one word: respect.”