Mosque Plan Axed After UK Church Pressure
CAIRO – Under pressures from churches and locals, the town of Camberley, south East England, has voted down by a huge majority plans by the local Muslim community to build a mosque.
Thirty-four of the 36-member Surrey Heath Borough Council voted against a plan by the Bengali Welfare Association to build the mosque, the Daily Mail reported Thursday, March 11.
The council had initially approved the mosque plans proposed by the Berkshire, Hampshire & Surrey Bengali Welfare Association (BWA) in January.
The change of hearts followed a fierce campaign by local churches and residents, who oppose the mosque’s design and site.
The mosque was to be built on the site of a locally-listed Victorian former school bought by Muslims 14 years ago and used as an Islamic center.
UK Churches Oppose Mosque Plan
BWA asserted that the building no longer met the needs of the growing local Muslim community, and people wanted to worship in a mosque and not in a school.
The Churches Together coalition had campaigned against the proposal, saying the mosque would spark “antagonism between the Muslim community and the wider community in Camberley for years to come.”
Many residents where opposed to the fact that the mosque would be located near the Royal Military Academy, while others described it as supremacist statement for Islam.
The English Heritage had also campaigned against the plan, arguing the design does not have high enough architectural quality that allows for demolishing the school.
John Denham, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, had also threatened to review the council’s decision if it approved the mosque plan.
The council’s decision was welcomed by a huge burst of applause from opposing locals who packed the 400-seat Camberley Theatre, where the vote was done.
Jubilant scenes followed outside from some residents.
“This is the right result for the people of Camberley, the initial planning application should have been thrown out as the building in question is listed and is sited in a conservation area,” said Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party MEP for the South East.
“This was never about religion, but about the fair and just process that applies to everyone no matter what faith or belief.”
Conservative council leader Moira Gibson admitted there were “a few racist elements” but said she did not think the campaign was fuelled by Islamophobia.
But the decision disappointed Camberley Muslims.
BWA chairman Abdul Mojid said he felt the vote had been “hijacked by political influence.”
Nahrni Choudhury, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of BWA, accused some of the campaigners of racism.
“I am upset. It’s not just about what the buildings will be,” she said after the meeting.
“It’s about the fact that we are Muslims and we are an ethnic minority and they don’t want to see a mosque here.”
You nailed it, Choudhury!