London mega-mosque proposal thwarted as ‘not good enough’

Baitul Futuh, currently the biggest UK mosque located in the south of London.(AFP PHOTO / Nicolas Asfouri)
What could become the UK's biggest mosque, backed by a missionary Islamic group, has been turned to nothing as London authorities rejected the plan after a decade of dispute.

The Abbey Mills Mosque, which would have held more than 9,000 worshippers “wasn't good enough” for the development of the East London borough of Newham, a local councilor said.

If built it would be four times the size of St. Paul’s cathedral, would feature 40-foot minarets and be of equal size to Britain’s biggest mosque, the Batul Futuh in Morden, South London.

The council reportedly stated that it had considered the application “at length and with great care” but found that the proposed construction was “too big,” causing fears of a negative impact on traffic and nearby historic buildings. It also offered no jobs and no residential development in the area, the council added.

The notion of having one of Western Europe's biggest Islamic centers in East London raised strong public concern and sparked the Mega Mosque No Thanks movement.

Critics of the plan feared that the center would become the first Sharia-controlled area in Britain, something activist Alan Craig dubbed an “Islamic ghetto,” and could serve as a base for Islamic fundamentalists.

The denial was preceded by council officers’ recommendations to reject the expansion of the 2,500-capacity temporary worship site for which Tablighi Jamaat has lobbied, British media said.

The six-hectare center's plan, with an estimated capacity four times that of St. Paul's Cathedral, was proposed by the Tablighi Jamaat, the hardline Islamic group, after more than 10 years of efforts to find a bigger place for worship, local media report.

The ninety thousand Muslims living in the borough are “extremely let down,” community leader Ala Uddin Ahmed was quoted as saying.

He considered the decision to be “unjust,” and to be a dismissal of the demands of local Muslims.

The news didn’t please the thousands who supported the proposed Riverine center, as the would-be mosque was also called. Supporters reportedly gathered outside town hall ahead of the decision.

Opponents claimed, however, that many Muslims opposed the plan, as Tablighi Jamaat, which they see as a strict fundamentalist group, would have governed the mosque.