Saturday, July 21, 2007

Prime Minister's Office in Furore Over Anti-London Mosque Petition

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office was caught up in a row on Friday over plans for a large mosque in London that have drawn vitriolic opposition from far-right campaigners.
A petition posted on the prime minister's Web site,, calling for the mosque's construction to be blocked, attracted more than 275,000 signatures before the window to sign up closed late on Wednesday.
While the number of signatories suggests strong opposition, the petition has drawn accusations of racism and Islamophobia from civil liberties groups and Muslim Web sites. The mosque's backers also point out the petition exaggerates the facts.
At a time of heightened tension after a series of Islamist attacks, the debate risks inciting deeper social unrest in Britain, which has a 1.7 million-strong Muslim community.
The online petition has turned the proposal to build a site of religious worship on empty land into an issue drawing in the prime minister's office, the mayor of London and the 2012 Olympics.
Responding to the furore, the government said it did not endorse the language used in the petition.
The petition was started by Jill Barham, a campaigner linked in the media to a far-right blog called English Rose. Attempts to reach Barham for comment were not successful.
In the petition, Barham states: "We the Christian population of this great country England would like the proposed plan to build a Mega Mosque in East London scrapped."
But even before that signature was found, the petition had drawn sharp criticism.
One criticism was that it played up facts, calling the mosque a "mega" structure that would cost 100 million pounds ($200 mln).
Those behind the mosque, a Muslim group called Tablighi Jamaat, which has 75 million members and calls itself a missionary movement, say it will cost 50-75 million pounds.
They also dismiss suggestions it will house 40,000 people, saying it is set to hold 12,000 -- which would still make it the largest site of worship for any religion in the United Kingdom.
"Neither the source of funding, nor the size of the proposed mosque has been reported accurately," said a spokesman for Tablighi Jamaat. "The group is saddened that so many people have been influenced by false information."
London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, issued a statement this week denouncing the false reports, including one saying he would fund the mosque. He said they could damage community relations.
"The particularly vicious nature of the campaign against a possible Muslim place of worship in east London should be condemned by all of those who support...freedom of religion," he said.
A statement on the prime minister's Web site said the government believed discussion of such controversial issues should take place "in a manner that respects the views of all."
While Tablighi Jamaat is largely maintaining a low profile, the debate shows scarce sign of going away.
One line of attack from opponents is that the mosque is tied to the London 2012 Olympics. In fact Tablighi Jamaat bought the land for the mosque in 1996, long before the games were awarded. But if permission to build is granted, it would open in 2012.


Mac McLernon said...

One of the main objections to this mosque, as far as I remember, is that a request for planning permission for a new church (to replace one bulldozed to make way for the Olympics) has been refused... whatever happened to equal opportunities?

Henry said...

I was asked to sign this by an acquaintance, and when I saw what it was about I told him in no uncertain terms that I would not, and that as the signatories claimed to be Christian, I would be expecting him at Mary Mags every Sunday from now on.

I find the resurgence of "English" identity worrying. I have NO English ancestry. I wasn't even born in England. I feel uncomfortable when I see the English flag flying, as was very noticeable when I came back from holiday last year.

This English identity has sinister overtones. At present it is focussing on Muslims, but the thing is fuelled by hatred of anyone who is not white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. With the probable impending break-up of the United Kingdom, the movement will gather force.

It is going to lead to something very unpleasant - indeed, we are just two successful terrorist attacks from it. We could be at the stage, roughly speaking, where Germany was in 1930. Which is ultimately the reason why I am coming to see the blue flag with a yellow cross as the one to take refuge under.

Laurence said...

My objection to the mosque is based on the fact that in Muslim countries, Christians are not allowed to worship or have to pay a tax in order to do so. Whatever happened to equal opportunities?

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca. said...

Henry, I do not know why you are so threatened by a white flag with a red cross. Loving one's country and its symbolic representations does not mean "I think my country is the only good one and the rest are crap." People loving their national flag is showing allegiance to the bonds of common values and ties to each other. No man is an island, and all that. It's a show of "one for all and all for one." It doesn't mean you always approve of what the government does....the flag doesn't stand for "the government" but THE PEOPLE. It does show faith in your fellows. You say you are not English? Fine. But why do you expect the English not to act English? That's like going to the US and expecting them to not have Turkey on Thanksgiving or fireworks on the fourth of July. There must be some reason why you continue to live there. Why? No one is pointing a gun at your head to do so. No country is perfect, but apparently you live there because you perceive some bond with those people, or derive some benefit yourself. In a crisis those people around you will come through like champs. Don't sneer at them. They may well save your life. They may have some warts, no country is perfect, but it's very cynical and "me, myself and I" to disdain those around you.

As we say in the US "If you don't like it here, don't let the door hit ya in the a$$ on the way out." [After all there are millions wanting to get in, and if that's your attitude I'd rather have an illegal swimmer who appreciates the opportunity to make a better life for himself than a cynical ingrate.]

Even if there isn't a drop of English blood in you, do you not recognize an ally?

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

nickbris said...

If they can fill it up then good luck to them.Before we interfered in the sub-continent people lived happily together and that probably goes for most of the rest of the World.Our apalling education system is just breeding ignorance and inferiority which leads to Nationalism and Xenophobia.