‘Sharia mosque four times the size of St Paul’s Cathedral’ – Daily Star resumes campaign against Newham Riverine project

NRAP Riverine Centre designBritain could have its first Sharia-controlled zone if plans for a mega-mosque more than four times the size of St Paul’s Cathedral get the go-ahead.

The East London mosque, known as the Riverine Centre, will hold 9,312 worshippers, compared to 2,400 at St Paul’s. The 16-acre site in West Ham will include 40ft minarets, an Islamic library, a dining hall, multi-use games areas, tennis courts, sports facilities and eight flats for visiting Muslim clerics.

Islamist group Tablighi Jamaat has submitted updated plans for what Cambridge-based architects NRAP are calling a “contemporary Islamic sacred space” the size of Battersea Power Station.

But last night campaigners against the proposal claimed the application was a smokescreen for wider intentions to create a hardline Islamic enclave in the capital. They also insisted facilities for the wider non-Muslim community in East London would be minimal and disguise Tablighi’s real aim to establish a global base.

The group has been dubbed an “antechamber of fundamentalism” by French intelligence officials. Two of the July 7 bombers, Shehzad Tanweer and Mohammad Sidique Khan, and failed shoe bomber Richard Reid, left, are believed to have prayed at a Tablighi mosque in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

Alan Craig, campaign director of MegaMosque-NoThanks, said: “Newham Council wants a mixed use of the site with homes, shops and business units. The mosque trustees say they want to build a mosque the size of Battersea Power Station. Either way, it will be the UK’s first custombuilt Sharia-controlled zone.”

Daily Star Sunday, 7 October 2012

This is just the usual ignorant, misleading nonsense we have come to expect from the right-wing press on the subject of the Newham “mega-mosque” (which won’t even be the largest mosque in London, as according to the present plan its capacity would be rather less than that of the Ahmadiyyas’ Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden).

The fact that Shehzad Tanweer and Mohammad Sidique Khan may have attended the Dewsbury Markaz is statistically meaningless given that the mosque holds 3,000 worshippers, nor is there the slightest evidence that it influenced their turn to violent extremism. And the Star yet again rolls out the claim that Tablighi Jamaat is an “antechamber of fundamentalism”, in order to suggest that a “fundamentalist” interpretation of religious belief necessarily constitutes a threat, while at the same time happily quoting Alan Craig, leader of the right-wing fundamentalist political party the Christian Peoples Alliance.

The reliability of Craig’s views on the Newham project can be gauged by the fact that, when he stood as the Christian Choice candidate for London mayor in 2008, his original election broadcast was rejected by both the BBC and ITV who demanded that he remove his unsubstantiated accusations against Tablighi Jamaat.

In fact Craig’s statements in that broadcast – he described TJ as “separatist” and implied that they were extremists – were quite mild by his standards. After the failed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow in 2007, Craig issued a disgraceful press release declaring that the Newham mosque was “linked” to the bomb plots, in which he made the following inflammatory claim: “Tablighi Jamaat radicalises and dehumanises Muslim young men. They have a growing and ominous track record as further young men follow Tabligh teaching about Islam and then go on to plan horrendous atrocities.”

Meanwhile, in a press release headed “Irate residents launch campaign against West Ham mega-mosque”, Craig boasts that he and his sorry little gang of bigots (masquerading as concerned “residents”) have been out leafleting in Newham in an attempt to whip up fear and hatred over the mosque among the local non-Muslim population. Craig’s actions have received the warm endorsement of the “counter-jihad” movement (see here and here).

The Daily Star Sunday report has also proved a source of inspiration to the far right. The English Defence League’s Facebook page has provided a link to the article, provoking the following comments from EDL supporters:

EDL 'mega-mosque' threats

Update:  Never a newspaper to pass up an opportunity to attack the Muslim community, the Daily Mail has now posted a report (“The mega mosque! Muslim place of worship with four times the capacity of St Paul’s Cathedral planned for east London”) that is just a rewrite of the Daily Star Sunday article, complete with the same quotes from Alan Craig. The Mail has chosen to illustrate its piece with a picture of the old Mangera Yvars design which the Riverine Centre trustees rejected over five years ago.