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Renewed call for enquiry into West Ham 'Olympics mega-mosque' to be made in Parliament

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For Immediate Release: 13 October 2006

Cllr Alan Craig to tell MPs and Peers that this "huge project must be subject to full public scrutiny and debate"

"Six major areas for concern"

Cllr Alan Craig, leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance group on Newham Council, will renew his call for an independent government enquiry into the proposed  'Olympics mega-mosque' at West Ham in Newham, east London, during a meeting at the House of Commons on Monday.

At the meeting, Cllr Craig will say that the multi-million pound mosque - planned to be the international headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat, the controversial and publicity-avoiding Muslim group - will impact many areas of local and national life.

"Although in the past Tablighi Jamaat have kept themselves below the radar-screen, they have clearly become a large, powerful and well-funded organisation with great ambitions," Alan Craig will tell the meeting. "They must expect - and preferably welcome - democratic scrutiny and debate about themselves and their massive project."

Cllr Craig, who lives a mile from the site of the mosque, first made his call for an enquiry at a full meeting of Newham Council on 18th September, but this was rejected by Newham's Labour executive mayor, Sir Robin Wales.

Monday's House of Commons meeting, chaired by Baroness Caroline Cox and organised by lawyer Andrea Minichiello Williams, is being held to brief MPs, peers and media about the mosque which, it is anticipated, will have a capacity of 10,000 worshippers at its first stage and 40,000+ when complete. It will be the biggest mosque in Europe, at an estimated ultimate cost of over £100m. 

Alan Craig will raise six areas of concern: 

1.    Security

Tablighi Jamaat claims to be a pietistic peaceable non-political organisation that is concerned solely with the spiritual and moral reformation of individual Muslims. But increasingly Intelligence Services, Islam-watchers and academics around the world are pointing to a hidden long-term political agenda and are also asking whether Tablighi Jamaat is currently a fertile-breeding ground for terrorists.

In the UK, 'Shoe bomber' Richard Reid, London 7/7 suicide bombers Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, and a number of suspects arrested in connection with this summer's airline terror plot, have all been Tablighi Jamaat followers.

"An independent enquiry will help us get to the bottom of this and find out the truth," Cllr Craig will say.

2.    Community impact.

Tablighi Jamaat's current European headquarters mosque is in the Savile Town area of Dewsbury, west Yorkshire. The mosque was built over 25 years ago and as a result the area has become 97% Muslim according to local observers.

"How can we be sure that we will not create a similar one-faith zone or 'parallel society' in West Ham over the next 25 years if Tablighi Jamaat receive planning approval for their much larger international headquarters mosque here?" asks Cllr Craig. "Does the Tablighi Jamaat separatist ideology inevitably lead to separated Muslim communities?"       

"Ruth Kelly's Commission on Integration & Cohesion must look at this aspect of the mosque, as it is at the heart of the multiculture debate," Alan Craig will argue.

3.    Social inclusion.

Tablighi Jamaat spokemen have been using social-inclusion language when promoting the mosque. They claim that the project's main intent is "to benefit the local break down bring the people of Newham together."

But the growing body of Muslim critics of the mosque say that there is no other Tablighi Jamaat mosque in Britain that has this inclusive objective, and that Tablighi Jamaat mosques normally promote cultural, theological and territorial barriers between the TJ 'we' and the kufr (infidel) 'other'.  

"In view of Tablighi Jamaat's track record against inclusion, it is reasonable to ask if they have now genuinely given up on their separatist form of Islam or whether their spokesmen are simply using socially-inclusive language in order to gain approval for their project from the authorities," asks Cllr Craig

4.    Funding.

The Saudi royal family-supported Muslim World League paid for the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters mosque in Dewsbury in the late 70s and many observers believe the West Ham mosque will be also Saudi-financed.

Tablighi Jamaat spokesmen claim the West Ham mosque will be funded by contributions from Tablighi Jamaat supporters from around the world. 

"We need to know the financial backers and the influence they may wield over the mosque," said Alan Craig. "If it is to be Saudi-funded, we should follow the Archbishop of Canterbury and demand reciprocity. Let the Saudis first allow the construction of a church, a temple and a synagogue in Saudi Arabia where at present they are banned and where there is no freedom of religion."

5.    Olympics.

The mosque complex is a mile from the site of the main Olympic stadium and will be designed to create an 'Islamic quarter' for the Olympic Games in 2012, with dining and residential accommodation and an Islamic garden for relaxation. It is intended to be a hub for Muslim competitors and spectators.

"But surely this is contrary to the 'Olympic ideal'," said Alan Craig. "The Olympics is supposed to bring together people of all races, cultures, religions, colours and nationalities. We should not allow a divisive separate sector for one religion alone."

6. Muslim communities.

Many Muslims in Newham are privately against the mosque. Some think that the money could be better spent on education, health and the alleviation of poverty. Others claim that east London doesn't need another large mosque. Yet more are concerned that the biggest mosque in Europe will be in the hands of a separatist sect that excludes Muslims from moderate Islamic traditions such as Barelwis and Sufis.

"We must encourage our Muslim fellow-citizens to speak up without fear," said Cllr Craig. "We live in an open society where peoples' opinions count. They must not feel intimidated into silence."


 - Ends -

Editors Notes:

(i)    Check against delivery.

(ii)    The meeting will be held in House of Commons Committee Room 10, commencing at 6.00pm. All media are invited. Contact organiser for details (below).

(iii)     Queries:    

           Cllr Alan Craig                07939 547198

           Andrea Minichiello Williams (meeting organiser)    07712 591164