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Muslim groups clash in bid to take over empty council offices

PUBLISHED: 19:03 29 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:55 05 October 2010

TWO Muslim groups have clashed over who should have the use a disused council building in the East End. The London Muslim heritage centre and Bethnal Green's rival Community Focus have petitioned Tower Hamlets' council to take over the disused St James area housing office in Bethnal Green

By Else Kvist

TWO Muslim groups have clashed over who should have the use a disused council building in London’s East End.

The London Muslim Heritage centre petitioned Tower Hamlets council to take over the disused St James area housing office in Bishops Way, Bethnal Green, to open a mosque and community centre.

They were “a transparent organisation” and the centre would be open to people of diverse backgrounds, trustee Shanur Miah told the council.

But the Bethnal Green North Community Focus—which also has Muslim members and has put in a rival bid for the building—accused the heritage centre of being secretive and employing people not registered to work in Britain.

The focus group’s Mohammed Shah told councillors it would be impossible to share the building with the heritage centre for these reasons.

Tower Hamlets Opposition councillor Stephanie Eaton questioned Mr Miah about how inclusive’ the heritage organisation is—pointing out that all its trustees are Bangladeshi men.

The organisation will seek to include more young people and women as it grows, he replied.

But Mr Miah refused to speak to the East London Advertiser after the council meeting. If residents wanted to find out more about them and their plans, he said, they could join the organisation.

Bethnal Green North focus group would use the centre for community activities including after-school classes and praying facilities, it promised.

The council is now considering the rival bids and makes its decision in late January.

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