Islamic group blocked from building ‘Britain’s biggest mosque’ in London
Battle that lasted 16 years finally ends with ruling that the Tablighi Jamaat sect cannot build a 290,000 square foot mosque in East London
The government has blocked an Islamic group with alleged links to fundamentalism from building Britain’s biggest mosque, putting a final end to a 16-year battle.
The highly controversial plans by the Tablighi Jamaat sect – accused by some of being a gateway to terror – would have created a so-called “megamosque” with 190-foot minarets and three times the floorspace of St Paul’s Cathedral. The 290,000 square foot mosque, near the Olympic Park in east London, would have accommodated up to 9,300 worshippers in two main gender-segregated prayer halls and a further 2,000 in a separate hall.
The bitterly-fought struggle has seen street blockades, accusations of racism, High Court action and even a video “obituary,” linked to from the mosque website, making implicit death threats to the main protestor against the plans and his family.
The scheme, officially known as the Abbey Mills Markaz or the Riverine Centre, was rejected by the local council, Newham, as long ago as December 2012, with councillors saying the building was too large and would harm their plans for a mixed-use neighbourhood.
But Tablighi Jamaat appealed, taking the application to a three-week public inquiry in summer last year. The inquiry inspector’s report was submitted to the Government in January, but ministers have been sitting on it since then because of its political sensitivity.
However, sources close to the process say that the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, has now made the final decision to block the scheme. A public announcement is expected shortly. “This proposal has created a great deal of division in Newham,” said one person with knowledge of the decision. “That would get a lot worse if the thing was built.”
Alan Craig, a former Newham councillor who led the campaign against the mosque, said: “This is fantastic news. For a decade and a half, Tablighi Jamaat has pulled out every stop to get its way, but at last the spectre is over.”
In 2007 Mr Craig was the subject of a video “obituary” entitled “In memory of Councillor Alan Craig” and featuring him, his wife and two daughters. The mosque website carried a link to the YouTube page where the video appeared.
During the Newham planning process, protestors from a body called the Newham People’s Alliance, set up to express
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