Let locals decide on mosque plans
Editorial in Evening Standard, 27 September 2006
THE PROPOSAL for a new £100 million mosque in East London was always going to be controversial.
However, the details we report today about the process for approving the building will raise increasing concern.
The new mosque next to the Olympic village, planned by the radical Islamic sect Tablighi Jamaat, will be huge, accommodating 10,000 worshippers at first, with possible expansion later for a total of up to 70,000. Yet the plans, which will completely transform this part of East London, have had almost no public debate or scrutiny so far.
That makes it all the more worrying that the body that makes the decision on whether the mosque goes ahead is not Newham council, elected by local people, but the unelected quango, the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation.
This is perverse. Britain is not a Muslim country.
There are already ample places for its Muslim population to gather and pray. What can possibly justify the creation of such a huge new mosque on the doorstep of the 2012 Olympics? The real reason for such a project is to satisfy the expansionist ambitions of Tablighi Jamaat, an organisation described by the French intelligence services as “the antechamber of fundamentalism”.
It is bizarre that a publicly funded body should now treat the intrusive plans of such a fringe group, with its Saudi extremist funding, so seriously.
And it is quite wrong that ordinary residents of the area, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, should have no say in the matter.
London does not need this mosque. The plans should be subject to the normal planning controls, overseen by elected officials and subject to the usual process of appeals and scrutiny. Anything else would be a travesty of local democracy.