LUTON, England —When Donald Trump raised the specter of Muslim-dominated no-go zones in London, Britons from the prime minister on down responded with indignation.
But Stephen Lennon nodded in agreement. There is one such area in his own home town, he says.
Driving through Luton’s Bury Park neighborhood one recent day, the 33-year-old with piercing blue eyes scornfully scanned the halal butchers, the women in hijabs, the skyline sprinkled with minarets, and insisted that if he were to try to walk through the Muslim-majority area, “I wouldn’t get out.”
“This is Islamabad,” he said, flashing a faint smile full of fake teeth, the real ones having been kicked out in a prison fight. Bury Park, he said, is not safe for “young white lads.”
Lennon, however, is no ordinary young white lad: Under the alias Tommy Robinson, he’s the driving force behind a national movement that seeks to ban Muslim immigration to Britain and advocates tearing down many of the country’s mosques. Community leaders say that as much as anyone, Lennon is responsible for stoking interfaith tensions in a town that has become synonymous in Britain with extremism — both Islamist and Islamophobic.
Residents insist that that reputation is deeply unfair. But as a storm of polarization and animus rages across the continent, Luton is likely to become a test case for which vision of Europe wins out: a cohesive multiculturalism that embraces people of different faiths, however messily, or a civilizational clash that leaves no room for Muslim and non-Muslim coexistence.