The Daily Star and Daily Mail have both published scaremongering articles about the “hardline Islamic enclave” that would come about if plans submitted for a new mosque in east London are approved. The Daily Star goes as far as describing it as Britain’s first “Sharia-controlled zone”.
From the Daily Star:
“Britain could have its first Sharia-controlled zone if plans for a mega-mosque more than four times the size of St Paul’s Cathedral get the go-ahead.
“The East London mosque, known as the Riverine Centre, will hold 9,312 worshippers, compared to 2,400 at St Paul’s.
“The 16-acre site in West Ham will include 40ft minarets, an Islamic library, a dining hall, multi-use games areas, tennis courts, sports facilities and eight flats for visiting Muslim clerics.
“Islamist group Tablighi Jamaat has submitted updated plans for what Cambridge-based architects NRAP are calling a “contemporary Islamic sacred space” the size of Battersea Power Station.
“But last night campaigners against the proposal claimed the application was a smokescreen for wider intentions to create a hardline Islamic enclave in the capital.
“They also insisted facilities for the wider non-Muslim community in East London would be minimal and disguise Tablighi’s real aim to establish a global base.
“The group has been dubbed an “antechamber of fundamentalism” by French intelligence officials.
“Two of the July 7 bombers, Shehzad Tanweer and Mohammad Sidique Khan, and failed shoe bomber Richard Reid, left, are believed to have prayed at a Tablighi mosque in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.
“Alan Craig, campaign director of MegaMosque- NoThanks, said: “Newham Council wants a mixed use of the site with homes, shops and business units.
““it will be the UK’s first custom built Sharia-controlled zone.”
“Meanwhile, trustees of the Riverine Centre, which runs the Tablighi Jamaat site, said: “The feedback received from the general Newham community from the public consultation held in February this year clearly demonstrated there is tremendous and overwhelming all-round support for our vision of turning a barren post-industrial landscape into an oasis for the benefit of everyone.”
The Daily Mail article echoes much of what appears in the Daily Star. Both reports follow similarly alarmist coverage of the plans for the mosque in the London Evening Standard last month.
The idea of the mosque being a ‘sharia controlled zone’ echoes reports last year on the antics of the now proscribed group, Islam4UK, who put up posters in some areas warning of a “sharia controlled zone” in which alcohol; gambling; music and concerts; drugs and smoking; porn and prostitution are all “banned”.
It comes as no surprise that the comparison of a masjid to a ‘sharia-controlled zone’ comes from Cllr Alan Craig given his past comments on the supply of halal meat as an example of ‘creeping Islamisation’. As Islamophobia Watch points out, “The reliability of Craig's views on the Newham project can be gauged by the fact that, when he stood as the Christian Choice candidate for London mayor in 2008, his original election broadcast was rejected by both the BBC and ITV who demanded that he remove his unsubstantiated accusations against Tablighi Jamaat.”
Moreover, as we previously argued, the French government’s description of the Tablighi Jamaat group as an ‘antechamber of fundamentalism’ is contested by the French expert on Islam, Oliver Roy who has described the group as "completely apolitical and law abiding." It is similarly ludicrous to suggest that because two of the 7/7 bombers and shoe bomber, Richard Reid are thought to have prayed at a Tablighi mosque that the organisation is responsible for their terrorist activities, as there is no evidence whatsoever that the mosque or the organisation more broadly influenced their views and activities.
The fearmongering media coverage of the mosque plans has provided fuel for BNP supporters, as is evident on the Bolton branch of the BNP’s website, who have stated that “MUSLIMS ARE DOING ALL THEY CAN BIT BY BIT UNTIL THEY ACHIEVE THEIR ULTIMATE GOAL, AND THAT IS TO TURN LONDON IN TO AN ISLAMIC STATE. THIS CAN NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.” They have even advocated covering the site in pig’s blood which they believe will deter Muslims from building on it:
“MUSLIMS WILL NOT BUILD THE MOSQUE IF THE SITE IS COVERED IN PIGS BLOOD (YOU MUST FILM THIS FOR PROOF)”.
It is no surprise really that the Daily Star or Mail have produced such alarmist reports on Islam given their previous records on reporting on Islam; the Daily Star’s editor, Dawn Neesom was questioned about the paper’s ‘anti-Islam coverage’ at the Leveson Inquiry earlier this year.
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