End of the Megamosque?

by - 30th October 2015

It’s official.  The Tablighi Jamaat have been refused planning permission to build their huge mosque and Islamic training centre in London’s east end.

After two decades at least of prevarication and inertia on the part of the authorities and vexatious appeals and refusal to observe planning regulations of almost any kind by TJ, the news is welcome.

Leaked to the Sunday Telegraph on Sunday, it was made official yesterday morning, with receipt by interested parties of the Secretary of State’s decision.

All three appeals by the so-called Riverine Centre were refused on planning grounds, with –somewhat incredibly - the right to request, within 28 days, a judicial review at the High Court.

TJ so-called ‘Trustees’ – they are not a registered charity - have also been ordered to demolish within six weeks the temporary 2,600-capacity ‘mosque’ - sheds under the pylons at the site next to West Ham tube - or be in contempt of court; something they have refused to do for years under both an enforcement notice and an injunction which further appeals held up.

As an expert witness to the Inquiry last summer, I found myself incredulous at the erudite barrister’s comparison of the Tablighi Jamaat to ‘a group of nuns’, having myself had to substitute for the Muslim witness who pulled out at the last minute claiming she had been ‘intimidated’.

The TJ are mostly amiable people who passionately believe God wants Britain to become Islamic, and so it will they say, unless deliberately blocked.  This planning refusal will be perceived as a deliberate block, no matter how many years of sophistry the system has allowed their well-endowed lawyers to indulge in. 

My visit to TJ's main centre in Delhi was fascinating and I was welcomed – so long as I did not face my interviewee.  I literally had to conduct my interview with an elderly scholar with my back to him.  I was not intimidated, or coerced, but plied with kindness and even gifts - and a scarf for my head and the authority of a very different way of life.

That was India.  This is Britain.  Different civilizations cannot co-exist within one set of borders. 

And here strong-arm tactics, obfuscations to the authorities about their intentions, and a deliberate ideology of segregation which has created by default a vast medieval basti or slum around their main centre in Nizamuddin, are unacceptable.  These are differences of approach that inherently defy the logic of secular planning claims and therein lies the rub.

For once, they will have to reckon with the fact that in a mature democracy the law is greater than Allah.

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