Community leaders and residents have spoken out against a BNP campaign to stop plans for a £1.5 million purpose-built mosque in Stoke-on-Trent.
The British National Party yesterday began distributing 20,000 leaflets which claim the mosque, to be built in Regent Road, Hanley, will be an eyesore, with prayers heard throughout the city via loudspeakers. It also claims the 600-capacity mosque will end up being built with council taxpayers’ cash and cause traffic chaos in the city centre.
Rana Tufail, director of the Islamic Centre, in Shelton, said the far-right party was scaremongering. He believes the mosque will be a credit to the city when it is completed.
Members of the public also say they have no problem with the mosque being built and criticised the BNP’s tactics.
Shopkeeper Mudassar Khan, aged 22, who runs RM Mini Market on Regent Road, said: “I think it is about time that Stoke had a central mosque for the Muslims that live in and around the area. Behind the mosque you will be able to see a church. What better way to show two religions existing in harmony?”
Thomas Barghesc, aged 25, of Regent Road, said: “I am a Christian and I am not bothered about it. If Muslims want a mosque they should have it.”
Northwood and Birches Head councillor Jean Bowers, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “Everybody has a right to their beliefs. If the mosque embraces the community, like they say it will, I think it will work. I don’t agree with what the BNP are doing. We have enough fear without them getting up to their old tricks.”
Paula Charlesworth, chairman of Hanley-based Union Street and Forest Park Residents’ Association, said: “I have no objections and it has never been brought up in any of our meetings.”
Angela Glendenning, chairman of the Partnership Approach to Racial Incidents in North Staffordshire (Parins), said: “I think what the BNP is saying is inflammatory. It is whipping up fear and hysteria. I have not seen the plans, but the idea that the council is giving favouritism to the Muslim community is bizarre.”
Mr Tufail said the Islamic Centre still needed more than £1 million to build it but that the money will come through donations. He added once work had started on the project, expected either at the end of the year or the beginning of 2006, it would take at least two years to complete.
He said: “There will be no funding sought from the council or any other source. The mosque has gone through the planning procedures and is perfectly within planning laws. There will be no parking problems, even when it is fully operational, and prayers will not be heard outside the vicinity of the mosque.”
He added: “The BNP is trying to create fear in the minds of the people which is not there. I would ask the community not to be fearful of the development. The development will be a credit to the city in terms of its use and architectural stature.”
Alby Walker, assistant organiser of the BNP in Stoke-on-Trent, defended the leaflet, saying: “We see this more as an information sheet and are doing our duty to the citizens of Stoke-on-Trent by distributing this as the reticence of the Labour group and the press have allowed this unpopular planning proposal to be passed unchallenged.”
The Sentinel, 17 August 2005