Another day, another scaremongering “mega-mosque” article, this one from the freesheet thelondonpaper.
The latest twist, of course, is to claim that there is mass opposition from Muslims to Tablighi Jamaat building an Islamic centre at Abbey Mills.
Haras Rafiq, who was involved in organising the petition against the proposed Abbey Mills markaz, is quoted as saying: “Muslims in the area are concerned their children will become involved in an extremist ideology. People will come from around the world to try to get more people involved with Tablighi Jamaat. It is ridiculous that that they are looking for Government funding for this – it should be totally out of the question. This organisation is dangerous.”
Yes, that’s undoubtedly the same Haras Rafiq who was responsible for forming the fraudulent, unrepresentative, New-Labour-loving, neocon-promoting, so-called Sufi Muslim Council.
And what is a businessman from Rochdale doing organising a campaign in West Ham, you might ask? Well, bear in mind that Haras Rafiq launched the SMC on the back of an anti-MCB witch-hunting TV documentary by the appalling Martin Bright, and that he echoed the right-wing press by accusing representative Muslim organisations like the MCB of not doing enough to combat terrorism. This is a man whose speciality is to align himself with the worst sections of the Islamophobic media in denouncing his co-religionists.
So at least we now have a clearer picture of the forces behind the “Muslim campaign” against the Abbey Mills Islamic centre. They’re the Sufi Muslim Council, Stephen Schwartz’s Center for Islamic Pluralism (for the origins of which see here) and Minhaj-ul-Quran.
Mystery of the Mega-Mosque
By John Dunne
thelondonpaper, 28 November 2006
Plans to build Europe’s first “mega-mosque” in the East End of London are provoking howls of protest among local residents. For some it will be a place for prayer, education, debate and the celebration of Islamic culture. But for others – including thousands of Muslims – it is nothing short of a nightmare.
The planned mosque in Newham will have space for as many as 70,000 worshippers – meaning it will be bigger than Arsenal’s new Emirates stadium, which holds 60,000. But fears are also growing that it could become a new hotbed for extremism because it is the creation of the Tablighi Jamaat, a secretive organisation which follows a strict Islamic code.
While plans to build something of this scale in London usually entail years of negotiation, public inquiry and clever public relations by the developers, Tablighi Jamaat refuses to shed light on its thinking. Their final intentions are unclear because they have yet to submit full plans on the project. The organisation has also repeatedly refused to respond to our queries about the project.
Such is the concern within Newham’s Muslim community that a petition against the mosque has already attracted 2,500 names. The opposition was reinforced today by a separate poll of 300 residents conducted by thelondonpaper which found that 60 per cent were against the scheme, with concerns raised over pressure on local public transport and parking, in addition to the fears that it could become a ground for radical teaching.
Earmarked for a ten-acre previously developed site near West Ham Tube, the mosque would have a greater capacity than the largest place of Anglican worship in Britain – Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, which holds 3,000. It will dwarf the largest mosque, in Morden, Surrey, which holds 10,000.
Haras Rafiq, who worked with the Sunni Friends of Newham on the Muslim petition, said: “Muslims in the area are concerned their children will become involved in an extremist ideology. People will come from around the world to try to get more people involved with Tablighi Jamaat. It is ridiculous that that they are looking for Government funding for this – it should be totally out of the question. This organisation is dangerous.”
A separate petition from the Triangle Residents’ Association, which is based next to the proposed development, raises fears over extremism and the potential transport chaos when vast numbers of worshippers flock to the area. A letter is going out to residents claiming the mosque could have “significant potential for attracting terrorism”.
The chairman of the association, who did not want to be named, said: “People around here are against the new mosque. It would have an adverse impact on our neighbourhood. There are concerns over radicalism and the fact that so many people will be coming here.”
Newham councillor Alan Craig, of the Christian People’s Alliance, said: “A lot of us in the community think it would be very bad to create this community which would not mix with the rest of the area. Many members of the Muslim community in Newham have signed a petition against the plans. This is not about religion, it’s just a question of everyone living together.”
The project will cost up to £300 million and donations are being sought from Britain and around the world. Police sources also admit there are behind-the-scenes concerns. Dr Irfan al-Alawi, Europe director of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism, said: “Tablighi are not moderate Muslims, they area separatist movement. If this mosque were to go ahead, it will be strictly run by the Tablighis; there will be no room for moderates.”
Temporary planning permission for a makeshift mosque on the site has expired, and a formal application for the new complex has not yet been lodged with the Thames Gateway Development Corporation, a quango responsible for the brownfield site where the mosque will be built. When that happens, locals hope more of their concerns will be answered.
Going to the mosque: everyone welcome, or no strangers allowed?
Having been sent packing twice at the security barrier of Tablighi Jamaat’s temporary mosque, I jumped at an invitation to Friday Prayers from a worshipper. Mujahid told me that he was a regular and that Islam was a religion that welcomed everyone. He said he was amazed that I had been turned away, saying that Islam was peaceful and inclusive. “You can definitely get in with me, no problem at all”, he said. However, after we took off our shoes, an official started frantically quizzing me about why I was there. Mujahid said I was with him. After a heated exchange Mujahid came back and told me that journalists were under no circumstances permitted. He apologised and disappeared inside while I was ordered to leave the premises.