LONDON — St. George's-in-the-East is the most exuberantly baroque of the many churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in the early 18th century to adorn London's East End. Its white towers rise like one of Disney's fairytale castles above the surrounding squalor of Shadwell. Just a mile or two away from the fabulous wealth of the City of London, Shadwell is one of the poorest places in Europe.
During the 1990s I used to walk through the churchyard on my way to and from work at the Times in Rupert Murdoch's vast Wapping headquarters. In those days I was alert to the fact that this district — once largely Jewish, and the scene of riots between Leftists and Fascists in 1936 — is now overwhelmingly Bangladeshi.
But though I was wary, it never occurred to me that I might be attacked merely for being a non-Muslim. The new phenomenon of "faith-hate" was only incubating.
Now, however, Londoners are faced by the threat of the jihadi generation. Whether they are carrying out high profile terrorism or low-level intimidation, these young Islamists are determined to create "facts on the ground" by establishing areas where only Muslims of their own stripe can live. That is what the Anglican Bishop Nazir-Ali of Rochester meant when he spoke of "no-go areas" in many British cities where non-Muslims no longer felt safe — remarks for which he was threatened with death and cold-shouldered by his fellow bishops. Not one spoke up in his defense — least of all the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the foremost advocate of Shariah law.
This week, however, disturbing evidence to support Bishop Nazir-Ali came to light. It has emerged that on March 5 the Anglican parish priest of St. George's, Canon Michael Ainsworth, was horribly assaulted in his own churchyard by two Muslims.
Asked politely by the 57-year-old priest to turn down their music, the two young men unleashed an unprovoked assault, while taunting him about his religion. They left Mr. Ainsworth badly injured in his churchyard, where he was later found and taken to hospital, where he remained for 12 days.
Nor was this an isolated incident. A former police officer, Nick Tolson, who is the founder of National Churchwatch, an organization recently established to protect priests against assault, said that faith hate attacks on clergy are rising. "The harassment is usually coming from young Asian men — often, but not exclusively, Muslim," he told the Times.
Even more disturbing is that the authorities are not treating these attacks as motivated by jihadi ideology. "The police and prosecutors will classify an attack on a mosque or Muslim as a hate crime but not if it is a church or a vicar."
In older inner cities, where there are high concentrations of churches in what are now largely Muslim neighborhoods, Christian clergy are often isolated and vulnerable. Jews have long since abandoned areas with large Muslim populations, such as the East End, but significant numbers of Christians remain. So the priests must stay to minister to their parishes — and risk becoming martyrs.
One Asian member of the parochial church council, Allan Ramanoop, described the jihadi mentality that is now ubiquitous in Britain's inner cities: "I've been physically threatened and verbally abused on the steps of the church. On one occasion, the youths shouted: 'This should not be a church, this should be a mosque, you should not be here.'"
Last year, bricks were thrown through the windows of St. George's during the service on Good Friday, one of the most solemn days of the Christian calendar. Church windows are smashed "two or three times a month," Mr. Ramanoop said.
This year, Canon Ainsworth's wife Janina, herself an Anglican priest, has stood in for her husband while he was in hospital. She insists that local mosques have sent messages of support and that "there is no concerted campaign against Christians."
Maybe not — but jihadi literature is widely available at local Islamic bookshops, including one next to the East London Mosque, the largest in the capital. Its chairman, Mohammed Abdul Bari, also is the leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, which claims to be the country's largest Islamic umbrella organization.
When Mr. Bari was mentioned in a report by the think tank, Policy Exchange, for allowing incendiary propaganda to be disseminated, Mr. Bari's response was to sue the Times for reporting the allegation. Mr. Bari received an abject apology from the newspaper, because he was not, he claimed, responsible for what was sold in the bookshop.
Mr. Bari calls the young jihadists "vulnerable." But it is not the jihadi generation that is vulnerable — it is their victims.