For the first time supporters and opponents of the proposed Olympics mega-mosque in East London will meet to debate the key issues surrounding the proposals, at a public meeting 7 September in Stratford.
Following the recent petition against the mosque which attracted over 250,000 signatures on the 10 Downing Street website, a tense atmosphere will be expected as both sides put forward their arguments head-to-head in front of an open audience.
Support for the mosque will be led by Abdul Khaliq Mian, a former mega-mosque project manager and spokesman, and also a former parliamentary candidate (East Ham 2005) and local council candidate (Newham 2006) for George Galloway’s Respect party.
Leading those opposing the mega mosque plans will be Councillor Alan Craig, leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance group on Newham Council.
The debate has been organised by Newham Muslim voluntary sector group ‘Islamic Circles’ and is open to the public.
“I’m delighted we are to debate the mega-mosque issue face-to-face at last,” said Cllr Craig, who has been the leading East London opponent of the project. “I first asked for discussions with mosque promoters Tablighi Jamaat over a year ago but they have always refused to meet. This is the first real opportunity to do democracy, and I expect the debate to be hard-hitting but civilised.”
Cllr Craig also criticised the stance taken by Ken Livingstone over the mega-mosque. “This debate will also serve to publicly discredit the Mayor’s offensive and unfounded slur that opposition to the mosque is by nature Islamophobic and BNP-inspired,” said Alan Craig. “It isn’t. Many Muslims oppose the Tablighi Jamaat mega-mosque, and non-Islamic local opposition is rational, reasoned and based on respect for our Muslim fellow citizens. We stand against BNP hate-mongering.”
The Christian People Alliance leaders concluded: “Of course the Mayor’s unreasoned biased backing for the mega-mosque simply strengthens the cause of all opponents.
“Fortunately he has no planning powers over the Olympic zone, so he cannot directly impact the final planning decision about the mosque.”
The debate is to be held at 6.15pm on Friday 7 September at Ithaca House in Stratford, East London.
Leaving aside Mr Craig's somewhat ill-informed anti-BNP diatribe, I wholeheartedly support his efforts to prevent the construction of this monstrous symbol of the Islamic takeover of our country. Because that is what this mosque is: a triumphalist symbol of the coming Islamic dominance of British society. The proponents of the mosque claim that calling it a "mega mosque" is deceitful, since it will "only" have space for 12,000 worshippers. Yet Britain's largest Anglican cathedral - Liverpool - has space for only 3,000 worshippers. I think that a mosque four times the size of any cathedral can fairly be called a mega-mosque, don't you?
And the Muslims of East London do not need a mosque of such enormous capacity. According to the mosque's own website, Tablighi Jamaat "currently attract about 3500 to our gatherings every Thursday and about 2000 on Friday". So it's unlikely that the mosque will get even halfway to being full to capacity.
No, this mosque is far more than just a place for Muslims to go, and pray, and learn that Jews are apes and Christians pigs. It is a symbol: it will dominate the East London skyline, rising high above all the churches, the synagogues, the gurdwaras, even above St Paul's Cathedral, and it will say, more powerfully than words ever could, "we are Muslims, we are here to stay, and we are here to rule over you".
Regarding the debate about the mosque, as opposed to the mosque itself: I have to say that I am deeply suspicious of the motives of the Islamic group organising this public meeting. I note that the event will be on a Friday - the Islamic holy day, and simultaneously the day on which the native British are least inclined to attend a political debate. I wouldn't mind betting that we will see Muslims pouring out of the mosques straight into Ithaca House, and that Mr Craig will find himself arguing the point with an audience packed full of his opponents.
Having said that, I would of course, urge those living in East London, those who will be personally affected by having this thing deposited on their doorsteps, to make it down to the debate, if at all possible. And maybe, in a good neighbourly spirit, anyone going could take along some sausage rolls to share round...