LONDON: Plans by an Islamic group to build a giant mosque able to accommodate more than 9,000 worshippers in the shadow of London’s Olympic Park have been rejected by the local authority.
Tablighi Jamaat, a missionary group with roots in India, has been trying since 1999 to build the mosque on a former chemical site in West Ham in east London, which would have become one of the biggest Islamic centres in western Europe.
It would have included a prayer hall for up to 7,440 men and a separate facility for almost 2,000 women.
Newham Borough Council rejected the proposal at a planning meeting late Wednesday, saying it was not consistent with development plans for the area and citing concerns about the size of the project and its impact on traffic.
“Councillors have considered this application at length and with great care before deciding to reject it,” said Conor McAuley, a member of the council.
The decision followed an extensive public consultation which resulted in 29,888 responses -- 26,139 in support and 3,749 against.
After Wednesday’s meeting, which drew 3,000 supporters of the project according to the BBC, community leader Ala Uddin Ahmed said he felt let down.
“There are 90,000 Muslims around the borough,” he told the broadcaster.
“The Muslim community is growing and there is need for bigger worship. We are extremely let down. We think it is unjust because of the demand of the local people and the Muslim community.”
The council is engaged in a separate legal fight against Tablighi Jamaat which it says no longer has permission to use part of the 6.6 hectare (16.5 acre) site to house a temporary mosque complex that can accommodate 2,500 people.
The plans to build the giant mosque sparked nationwide concern because of its size and past accusations that Tablighi Jamaat has radicalised young Muslims.
Tablighi Jamaat is the world’s biggest Islamic missionary movement although it focuses its energies on Muslim communities rather than non-believers, according to a book on the group published by the charity Lapido Media.
Founded in India in 1926 to oppose Hinduism and British imperialism, it now operates in all countries where there are Muslims and has a worldwide membership of about 80 million. It has been active in Britain since 1944.
The Trustees of the Abbey Mills Riverine Centre, also known as the Anjuman-E-Islahul-Muslimeen of London U.K Trust, did not respond to AFP’s request for comment.
But their website says those who worship at its mosque are “independent, non-political and peaceful Muslims” and says it has no associated organisational structures. AFP