Islamic sect’s plan to build mega-mosque next to Olympics site collapses
From The Times January 18, 2010
Fiona Hamilton, Ruth Gledhill
The site south of the Olympics Park where Tablighi Jamaat had planned to build a mosque for 12,000 worshippers. It now faces eviction after failing to submit a masterplan to the local council
Controversial plans to build Europe’s biggest mosque close to the London Olympics site have been halted, The Times has learnt.
Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamic sect behind the proposal, is to be evicted this week from the East London site, where it has been operating illegally a temporary mosque and had planned a complex that would accommodate 12,000 worshippers.
The Muslim Council of Britain said that the group had fallen victim to “unfounded hostility and hysteria”.
However, another Muslim organisation last night welcomed the move. Minhaj-ul-Quran, which advises the Government on how to combat youth radicalisation, said that a mosque should be a “community effort” and not the initiative of one group with extremist links.
Newham Council is now considering compulsory purchase of the land after Tablighi Jamaat, whose strict interpretation of Islam has caused concern, failed to lodge a masterplan of its vision. There was strong opposition when the sect unveiled its plans for the site, south of the London 2012 Olympic Park, in 2007. More than 48,000 people petitioned the Government to prevent the development, dubbed the “mega-mosque”.
Although Tablighi Jamaat had publicly vowed to press on with its vision, there has been no activity on the project since last summer.
The Times understands that its architects are not actively working on the plans and a company hired to win over the public is no longer formally engaged. Newham Council’s planning officers have not spoken to the mosque trust for several months.
Newham Council confirmed that it issued enforcement notices against the trust on Thursday. The makeshift mosque on the West Ham site has been operating illegally since temporary planning permission lapsed more than three years ago.
A spokesman said that action was taken because the trust missed its final deadline, earlier this month, to lodge a masterplan.The council was investigating all options, including compulsory purchase.
Observers portray Tablighi Jamaat as a strict movement intent on spreading its version of Islam. British terrorists have had associations with the organisation and intelligence agencies have expressed fears that al-Qaeda was using membership as cover to network with extremists in the US.
Founded in India in 1927, it has 80 million followers. It “utterly refutes any links to terrorism or terrorists”.
Campaigners welcomed the outcome, saying that the proposed mosque — which would have held four times as many worshippers as Britain’s largest Anglican cathedral — was inappropriate. Alan Craig, a councillor representing the Christian Peoples’ Alliance, said: “It would have given a huge national platform, right by the Olympics, for them to promote their ideology.”
However, Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “We would hope that they will be able to work in co-operation with the local council if they wish to set up a mosque in the area. Tablighi Jamaat has no ties to terrorism. They have been subjected to some unfair coverage.”
The mosque trust has refused to comment.
The news comes as the Islamic group Minhaj-ul-Quran releases in Britain a 600-page document condemning terrorism.
The fatwa, written by Dr Muhammed Tahir-ul-Qadri, a former minister of Pakistan and friend of Benazir Bhutto, declares suicide bombings and terrorism as unIslamic. It is one of the most comprehensive documents of its kind to be published in Britain. Released in Pakistan last month, the fatwa uses texts in the Koran and other Islamic writings to argue that such attacks are “absolutely against the teachings of Islam and that Islam does not permit such acts on any excuse, reason or pretext”.