UK: London mosque row highlights Muslims’ struggle for status

Click here: AFP – London mosque row highlights Muslims’ struggle for status

…If officials grant planning permission the mosque, in the deprived but diverse district of West Ham in east London, will hold up to 12,000 worshippers and feature facilities including a school and conference centre. It is, though, a big if. The plan has drawn furious opposition from some politicians and locals, with 280,000 people signing a petition against it on Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street website earlier this year. Many complaints focus on Tablighi Jamaat, the media-shy Muslim group behind the proposed development of the 18-acre Abbeymills site, and which mosque opponents and some British press reports claim has links to Islamic extremism.

…Many Muslims in the street declined to comment on the plans, with some citing suspicion of how Islam is represented in the British media. But a local Islamic bookshop worker who declined to be named said the new mosque was needed because of chronic overcrowding. “There are thousands of people in this area — they’re praying in houses, in sheds, in portakabins,” he said. Two other large mosques built in the area in recent years had rapidly become overcrowded, he said, predicting that a new one would draw worshippers from across the capital. A young Muslim man, who also declined to give his name, echoed this view. “We pray five times a day. We want somewhere to go and put our heads down and pray,” he said. Asked about why he thought there was such strong opposition to the plans, the bookshop worker responded: “What they’re saying is why do we need such a big mosque?”

…On the mosque website, organisers said they “utterly refute any links to terrorism or terrorists” and described Tablighi Jamaat as “a Muslim missionary and revival movement”. “We do not teach an extremist line, but we clearly can’t speak for every single one of those who has ever attended our mosques,” it said, adding that the movement has up to 80 million followers worldwide….Tablighi Jamaat also denies reported links to the Saudi royal family, saying the money for the mosque, whose construction costs have not yet been estimated, will be raised through donations from Muslims in London.

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