To understand the development of Islam in Western countries, I make a habit of visiting Muslim-majority areas such as Lakemba in Australia, Lodi in California, and Lunel in France. But London, England, is unique in the extent of its Islamic impress.
Muslim-majority areas typically consist of poor, unattractive housing projects, remote from the city center, which long ago were abandoned by their original indigenous, working-class populations. They often feature men sitting around cafes and women cooped up at home. They suffer from a range of social pathologies, including unemployment, criminal gangs, and drug-trafficking.
London too has such areas, and they are very large; but what makes the English capital unique is the intense Muslim presence in the very most central and expensive parts of the city, where Muslims do not constitute a majority. This presence takes two main forms.
First, there’s the posh Muslim element. According to a CBRE study, Middle Easterners invested over $4.2 billion in London commercial real estate in 2015 (the most recent full year with statistics); this money tends to go into high-profile properties such as the Shard, the city’s tallest building; Harrods, its most glamorous department store; Claridge’s, its most luxurious hotel; and purchasing the former U.S. embassy building.