SHAFAQNA – The Department for Communities and Local Government has rejected an appeal against the refusal to grant permission to build a large mosque in East London.
The Tablighi Jamaat (meaning ‘Society for spreading faith’), is an international Islamic missionary movement which had sought permission to construct the mosque as early as 1998. However, opposition to the project, which included a library and a dining hall, have come in the way of official sanction being accorded. The proposed mosque was to come up on a 17-acre plot, which was formerly the site of a chemical works, until it was decommissioned in the 1980s. The Tablighi Jamaat bought the land for £1.6 million in 1996, and has already constructed a mosque that has the capacity to accommodate 2,500 worshippers at a time. The proposed extension would have made it larger, increasing its capacity to 9,000. The existing mosque is known as Masjid-e-Ilyas or the London Markaz among Muslims, but others who are not familiar with Islamic terminology call it the Abbey Mills mosque. It is located in Stratford, near the London 2012 Olympic Park. The Tablighi Jamaat has also been banned from using the existing mosque – it must cease to use it as a place of worship for two years, and they have three months to start complying with the new directives. Much of the opposition to the new mosque, or rather the extension to the existing one, came in the form of town planners. An additional 7,500 converging on Fridays would mean traffic jams and parking problems, and to avoid this, more roads would have to be constructed, existing roads widened, and new parking areas would have come up – all this would have significantly altered development plans for the borough.
If the Tablighi Jamaat had its way, the new mosque would have become the largest religious structure in Great Britain and one of the biggest in Europe. 250,000 Britons had signed a petition against the new mosque in 2007, and in 2012 when the Newham Council was considering the application – it decided against it on the grounds of inadequate public transport for the increased number of worshippers – 3,000 Muslims from Bradford and Birmingham had gathered outside the Town Hall. Newham Council said the land could instead be used to build 1,100 homes, and generate another 1.6 million square feet of community, office and retail space, creating a large number of jobs.