'Megamosque' deadline pushed back as government denies extremist links
by- 25th March 2015
GOVERNMENT officials have denied claims a decision over a controversial plan to build a 9,000 capacity 'megamosque' is being pushed back till after the general election for political reasons.
Tablighi Jamaat, the group behind the mosque plan, had its application rejected by planning officials at Newham Council in 2012 but have since appealed to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, to reconsider the decision.
However, a deadline of March 16 has come and gone amid a flurry of accusations and counter claims.
Fiyaz Mughal, a former member of the working group advising on the Tablighi Jamaat funded mosque plan, recently revealed he had resigned in protest at its activities.
He told The Telegraph: ‘I was deeply concerned about the kinds of groups some of the members had connections with, and some of the groups they were recommending be brought into government. It seemed to me to be a form of entryism, by people with no track record in delivering projects.’
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) was quick to rebut the claims, stating a decision would be made in due course regardless of the upcoming election.
He said: ‘These claims are wrong. Planning is a quasi-judicial process and all decisions are made by ministers, after being carefully considered on their individual merits. This a very complex case, which needs careful consideration, and a decision will be issued as soon as possible.’
He also claimed the March 16 date was always subject to change.
Tablighi Jamaat traces its origins to India in the late 1920s and has been accused in the past of being anti-western and separatist, and of creating an unreal atmosphere that can lead some young people to renounce normal life.
But the group says it 'refrains from political or controversial activities and stands for democracy and freedom' and that it 'promotes social and religious tolerance'.
Campaigners against the mosque’s construction believe that its backers are being led by extremist elements operating within the DCLG.
Reports have claimed a ‘cross Government working group on anti-Muslim hatred’ set up by Baronness Sayeeda Warsi and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been infiltrated by Islamic radicals.
These include Mudassar Ahmed, a former member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), which is banned from many universities as a hate group.
But the DCLG spokesperson added: ‘The Government is very clear that we will not fund or engage with groups which promote violent or non-violent extremism. All individuals represented on the Cross-Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred are committed to the peaceful integration of all communities. The independent members are not able to influence planning decisions.’
Newham-based Alan Craig, director of the MegaMosqueNoThanks campaign said: ‘I got a message back last week saying no date has been set. My estimate is they are now not going to announce it. They are burying it.’
Craig also claimed that Sayeeda Warsi ‘promoted a lot of Muslim activists to the DCLG’.
He added: ‘The thought is a Labour government coming in might be more favourable towards the megamosque but that does not necessarily hold as it is a Labour local authority in Newham that has rejected the plans.’
Prior to Craig's comments reports have stated that members of the working group are using their seats at the table to urge Whitehall to work with Islamist and extremist-linked bodies, including one described by the Prime Minister as a ‘political front for the Muslim Brotherhood’.
It was also suggested they are pressing to lift bans on foreign hate preachers from entering Britain.
The government official also confirmed Muddassar Ahmed was a MPACUK member but left in 2005 and ‘has since disassociated himself from this organisation, its views and its approach’.
Ahmed campaigned heavily against ‘Zionist’ MPs for MPAC, in particular Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, and Lorna Fitzsimons, the former Labour MP for Rochdale. She lost her seat after MPAC sent thousands of leaflets to local Muslim voters saying they should sack her because she was ‘Jewish’. She is not Jewish.
In June last year if was reported that Ahmed, who is CEO of Unitas Communications and has previously led on projects for the BBC, United Nations and the Deputy Prime Minister's Office, was instrumental in persuading a key witness critical of the megamosque plan to withdraw her opposition to the plans.
Tehmina Kazi the founding director of the forward-thinking British Muslims for Secular Democracy group said in 2011 that she believed Tablighi Jamaat ‘discourages integration into British society, especially of female members, since they essentially do not communicate with non-Muslims’.
She also claimed that female members are ‘kept secluded’.
However, she has since said the Tablighi Jamaat are ready to reform their views towards women.
A spokeswoman for Newham Borough Council said she believed that the Secretary of State's decision would not take place before May’s general election. Planning decisions would not start to be issued after that until at least June because they would need whoever got into power to 'bed in'.
The claims come just days after Afzal Amin, the Conservative candidate for Dudley North was recorded allegedly plotting with the English Defence League to organise a fake demonstration against a planned mosque.