Project for London Merkaz 'mega mosque' suspended - tied to Tablighi Jamaat and Al Qaeda recruitment
June 1, 2007
color-666">MIM: For more on the chronology and protests against this mosque project see Dr.Daniel Pipes's blog "The London Merkaz".
color-666">May 29, 2007
Setback for Muslim sect's 'mega-mosque' in London
color-666">Image of Abbey Mills Islamic centre being built in Stratford East London. Once built it will be the largest mosque in Europe, which will be located just outside the London Olympics site in East LondonImage :1 of 2 Joanna Sugden
An ultra-orthodox Islamic sect has delayed plans to build a "mega-mosque" in East London after the Government warned it could "raise tensions" in the community.
Tablighi Jamaat had intended to submit plans to build Britain's largest place of worship next to the Olympic site, this September. But the group told Times Online that no plans would now be submitted until next year at the earliest.
More than 48,000 people have petitioned the Government to "abolish plans for the £100m mega-mosque" with a capacity for 12,000 worshippers beside the London 2012 Olympic park in Newham, East London.
The Government said that the issue could "raise tensions" and did not expect any planning application to be made in the "near future".
A statement in response to the petition, published on the Downing Street website, said: "We understand from Newham Council that there is no current planning permission or application for a mosque and Newham Council do not expect a planning application in the near future."
A spokesperson for Tablighi Jamaat said that plans for the 18-acre site in Newham were being drawn up, but he added: "There's no expectation of any planning application before the end of the year, because of the size of the application."
The Government called the proposed mosque, which would hold four times as many worshippers as Britain's largest Anglican cathedral "controversial" and said it had to take into account the views of local communities. "All involved should ensure that discussions are conducted in a manner that respects the views of all sections of our communities and in a way that does not raise tensions in local areas," the statement said.
Tablighi Jamaat's spokesperson said the group did not think the plans were controversial but admitted there would be a lot of public interest in the application, "It should not be looked at any differently from any other faith building" he said.
Plans for the mosque have been blighted over the last few months. The group, which intelligence agencies fear is a gateway to extremism, recently claimed they had dismissed award-winning architect Ali Mangera from the project, and has yet to announce his replacement.
Alongside the proposal for the mosque the group also envisage a religious boarding school for up to 500 pupils on the site, a former chemical works that they bought for £1.6m in 1996.
Strong local opposition has generated bad publicity for the mosque. A Newham councillor, Alan Craig, who is leading the campaign against the development, described the mosque as an unwanted "landmark" in the East End of London and Tablighi Jamaat as a "ambitious, separatist and isolationist group".
The beleaguered group have recruited a Westminster lobbying company to undertake their public relations. The public affairs company, Indigo Public Affairs set up a website for the mosque and put Tablighi Jamaat on YouTube with a short statement from an unnamed representative who tries to dispel fears and says the mosque will only reach its maximum capacity of 12,000 at two festivals a year.
Tablighi Jamaat, which translates as "Proselytising Group", claims on its website to stand for "democracy and freedom" and says it is "a role model to promote social and religious integration".
But the site also adds that "complete success in this world and the hereafter is only achieved in following the way of life shown by Muhammad and every other way leads to failure in this world and the hereafter". Strict followers of the sect's doctrine sleep on the ground and brush their teeth with a twig following the practices of Muhammad.
French intelligence agencies and the FBI have raised concerns that jihadi groups could use Tablighi Jamaat as a recruiting ground. The movement, founded in India in 1927, has 80 million followers worldwide and refutes all accusations of links to terrorism or terrorists. Its website states: "We do not teach an extremist line, but we clearly can't speak for every single one of those who have ever attended our mosques."