A planning inquiry in east London heard yesterday how a ‘secretive’ Muslim sect that wants to ‘conquer the world for Islam’ is trying to represent itself as a community project in order to ensure its European mission base.
In a sweeping condemnation of a group he described as ‘sexist and supremacist’, Imam Dr Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre in Oxford may have swayed the outcome over long-contested plans for a so-called ‘mega-mosque’ on polluted wasteland next to the prestigious Olympic site in Newham.
Before a planning inspector in the Committee Room of East Ham’s grandiose Town Hall, he said the fundamentalist teachings of the Tablighi Jama’at, the world’s most successful Muslim proselytising movement, were radically opposed to integration.
‘They are a highly exclusive group, supremacist and secretive, and they believe that their form of Islam will prevail,’ said Hargey.
‘They want to go back to a seventh-century version of Islam that will conquer the world.
‘This virulent anti-Western philosophy furnishes the theological justification and intellectual mindset for social insularity and cultural separatism that is wholly inimical to the legitimate and long-term interest of British Muslims.’
The proposed mosque – re-named Abbey Mills Riverine Centre on the advice of its British PR company, Communications Management - had a planned capacity of 40-70,000, since revised to 12,000.
The trustees are contesting an enforcement notice imposed by Newham Council after they failed to submit a master plan for the site they have owned near West Ham station for 14 years.
They are seeking yet another stay of execution while the top consultancy, Allies and Morrison, draft a plan.
But in his evidence, Hargey asserted the mosque would attract a disproportionate number of Muslims to the area and create ‘a practical apartheid-like ghetto’ -a ‘bastion for regressive fundamentalism and social isolationism in the heart of Britain’s capital.’
This heightened the security risk, since Muslim radicals had capitalized on TJ’s pietist reputation by attaching themselves to the organization to facilitate their ‘militant operations’.
Several convicted terrorists, including Richard Reid the shoe-bomber, have been followers of Tablighi Jama'at.
Evidence of the sect’s ‘misogyny’ was also given, in a personal capacity, by Tehmina Kazi, Director of the new group British Muslims for Secular Democracy, of which the Independent columnist Yasmin Alihai Brown is a Board member.
A former project officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Kazi told the inquiry that Tablighi women were ‘subordinated and segregated’ – and colluded in it.
They were required to cover their entire body with a burkha and face veil, and observe purdah in Newham, while always needing to be accompanied by a male relative in public.
Their influence on future generations ran counter to hopes for integration. ‘The Tablighi Jamaat discourages this kind of integration into British society, especially of female members, since they essentially do not communicate with non-Muslims.’
She denied the TJ met government requirements for cohesion through integration, since they refused to mix even with non-Muslim women for faith reasons.
The appeal process is believed to have cost the mosque trustees some £500,000 – money whose source remained unclear, according to Hargey although their Wahhabi profile pointed to the Saudis.
The top team of barristers, architects, planning and PR consultants the Trustees have hired have sought over the past week to convince the Planning Inspector that the TJ should stay on the site they own as they do no harm.
But Hargey said he had visited the sect's European headquarters in Dewsbury and no one spoke English to him, only Urdu.
And there was no indication from his site visit to Abbey Mills, despite 14 years of ownership, all but two of them in illegally erected buildings, of language or citizenship classes suitable for helping meet permanent residency requirements.
There were no women’s facilities anywhere, or at any of the six other regional TJ mosques.
The Trustees are claiming the development would provide services for the community such as weddings – yet Hargey said a TJ woman was not even present at her own wedding.
A male relative would sign the register on her behalf.
Opposition to the mosque has been focussed by a small group of local professionals called Newham Concern, led by former opposition leader on Newham Council, Alan Craig, who secured the support of local and national Muslim leaders, and has attracted media attention from Iran to Washington.
He said: ‘We are not anti-mosque, just anti this mosque. Everyone has a right to worship as they wish, but these plans threaten the successful mix of communities that is so attractive to local people and developers.
‘We hope to see a real mixed-use development on this prime site that will be a genuine benefit for everyone.’
The Tablighi Jama’at means ‘preaching party’ and originated in south-west Delhi, India in the 1920s. Its founder’s father took an oath of jihad against the British, administered at the Deobandi Seminary in Uttar Pradesh.
The inquiry resumes on Tuesday 1 March when barristers for all parties will sum up. A decision will be published in May.
Allies and Morrison: http://www.alliesandmorrison.com/contact
Newham Concern, Alan Craig 07939 547198
Spokesman for the Abbey Mills Riverine Centre, Richard Edwards firstname.lastname@example.org 01727 738 559