A self-styled battalion of the far-right group Britain First has “invaded” a mosque in south London.
The stated aim of the altercation on Sunday was to “demand the removal of sexist signs” outside the Crayford Mosque.
The signs designate separate entrances for men and women, so they can enter for segregated worship as is the custom in most mosques, as well as Orthodox Jewish synagogues and Sikh gurdwaras.
A film of the encounter was posted on Facebook, set to dramatic drumming music and ending with the slogan: “Britain First Defence Force. No fear. No retreat. No surrender.”
All sporting matching black flatcaps, the group of five “activists” marched into the mosque and asked to speak to the imam, before quickly giving up and speaking to the first person they came across.
The leader, Paul Golding, announced: “We’re Britain First, yeah? We object to your signs that are outside, the signs for men and women… in this country we have equality.”
The man politely asked them to remove their shoes in a place of worship but the Britain First members ignored him.
“When you respect women we’ll respect your mosques and you’ve got signs out there that segregate men and women,” Mr Golding told him.
A female member of the group accused Muslims of taking equality back “a hundred years” and told him to take the signs down.
The man promised quickly to take the signs down and ushered them outside but then there was another demand – to cover up the Christian cross built into the brick of the building, which is a former Methodist Church.
Mosque members explained it was part of the structure and under council control but Britain First called it “offensive” to Christians.
Syed Alam, who volunteers at the North West Kent Muslim Association, told the News Shopper they found Britain First “aggressive and threatening”.
“They are filthy people creating trouble in our society,” he added.
“They were quite lucky because if they had come earlier there would have been lots of people finishing their prayers and there could have been real trouble.”
A statement on the group’s website claimed that members of the “Kent Battalion” had their homes searched by the Metropolitan Police hours after the incident on Sunday.
A spokesman said police had been called to “reports of a disturbance” but no arrests had been made.
He added: “The incident is being investigated by detectives from Bexley Community Safety Unit to establish whether any offences have been committed.
“Officers from the local Safer Neighbourhoods Team are carrying out additional patrols in the area.”
The “invasion” is one of many conducted by Britain First, which has been known to carry out “Christian patrols” in ethnically diverse areas and hand out Bibles to Muslims.
Britain First, formed in 2011 by former members of the British National Party, proclaims itself as a “patriotic political movement”.
The group’s Facebook page was briefly shut down last month after a complaint about hate speech but was quickly restored.