Planned east London Islamic center sparks 'Mega Mosque No Thanks' campaign
The gigantic mosque, four times the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral, will sport towering 40-foot minarets, an Islamic library, sports facilities and eight apartments.
Planning permission for the place of worship is being considered by Newham Council, despite controversy and fierce opposition from the local community, including many Muslims.
The plans were submitted by Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary movement, which some have described as an ‘antechamber of fundamentalism’.
Critics claim the Islamic group preaches separatism and segregation. Two of the July 7, 2005, London bombers – Shehzad Tanweer and Mohammad Sidique Khan – are believed to have prayed at a Tablighi mosque in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, before committing their terror attack.
“They teach that if you want to be a good Muslim you must separate off from non-Muslims…It's only Tablighi Jamaat – of all the Islamic groups – that has created ghettos over in Toronto, in Canada. They're all around the world, this is a huge group and wherever they go they create barriers, hostility, division, they create separatism," Alan Craig, campaign director of ‘Mega Mosque No Thanks,’ which is actively opposing its construction, told RT.
If given the go-ahead, the massive mosque could be the first Sharia-law-controlled area in Britain. Many East Londoners are worried that flouts Prime Minster David Cameron’s policy of a multicultural Britain that embraces all ethnic groups.
“The grounds on which they're trying to set-up here in Britain are anti-British, anti-Western. This is not just going to be a Mosque – this is going to be a centre of training, where they are going to try to reach out to Islamist Muslims. To harden up and medieval-ize the Islam of ordinary Muslims in this country. And I meet so many Muslims, who don't want that," journalist and cultural analyst Dr. Jenny Taylor, founder of religious literacy consulting group Lapido Media, explained to RT.
That view is shared by many Muslims in East London. Asqhar Bukhari, a spokesperson for the UK branch of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, told RT, “Muslims themselves oppose this mosque. Not on the grounds that, they don't want to worship their God, but on the grounds that women aren't allowed, the local population, the Muslim population, has no say in how the mosque itself is governed."
The proposal has sparked intense opposition in the years since the plans were first submitted in 1999.
In 2001, Tablighi Jamaat agreed worship would only be on a temporary basis at the site of the proposed mosque. In 2010, Newham Council issued an enforcement notice, but Tablighi successfully appealed it in 2011 and now more than 5,000 people worship at the ramshackle site every week.
The plans had initially included a provision for retail units and 300 houses, which were shelved in place of the mega mosque. The Muslim community refused to allow their donations to contribute to commercial businesses.
Newham Council, which received the proposal from Tablighi on September 5, 2012, issued a statement in response: “We can confirm we have received a planning application. As this is currently being processed it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
The Mega Mosque No Thanks website contains a checklist for mobilizing activists, including signing an e-petition on the government’s website and contacting local MPs.
Craig explained to RT, “If this went ahead it would be like a tipping point – there will be no stopping fundamentalist Islam. If that happens – well we'd all need to leave the county."
Tablighi Jamaat maintains that their purpose is peaceful missionary work. Spokesperson for the group’s charitable trust and site owner Anjuman-E-Islahul-Muslimeen previously told reporters, “The door is always open and we are happy to meet and discuss in depth our proposals.”