When footage emerged last month of Muslim youths in East London accosting passers-by near a mosque for not upholding Islamic norms, the reaction was swift, predictable and almost universally outraged.

But the actions of the self-styled "Muslim Patrols" are more than just an attempt to impose Sharia in Muslim areas of London: they are part of a battle for Muslim opinion in Britain.

"This is more about the Muslim community than non-Muslims. These people think they are making what they do attractive to young people," said Salman Farsi, a spokesman for the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, which caters to one of the city's biggest Muslim communities.

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