Police step in as tempers ignite over East End mosque plan
PUBLISHED: 10:40 10 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:26 05 October 2010
POLICE were called to a mosque in London’s East End when angry protests threatened to boil over following Friday Prayers.
Officers moved in to calm placard-waving worshippers who swarmed around the Shahjalal Mosque in Stepney, claiming community Elders were breaking promises to rebuild the mosque. The protesters waved placards proclaiming Stop hijacking our mosque land’ and Where has our money gone?’
POLICE were called to a mosque in London's East End when angry protests threatened to boil over following Friday Prayers.
Officers moved to calm placard-waving worshippers who swarmed around the Shahjalal Mosque in Stepney when the row erupted.
Younger Muslims claimed community Elders were breaking promises to rebuild the mosque.
They waved placards proclaiming 'Stop hijacking our mosque land' and 'Where has our money gone?'
Members of the mosque's senior management committee fear the youths are pushing their own agenda and say they're scared of what they believe is a fight to usurp them.
The row centres on a set of portable cabins in Duckett-street on Stepney's huge Ocean estate.
Some cabins serve as the mosque and others as the Shahjalal community centre.
Conditions have become cramped, particularly during the increasingly popular Friday Prayers.
Plans to rebuild it were approved by Tower Hamlets council four years ago and the Elders launched a fundraising drive.
They promised worshippers a three-storey building with a community centre in the basement.
But the committee concluded the £5 million scheme would be too expensive and downgraded the plans, much to the fury of 1,000 protesting worshippers who signed a petition.
The protesters organised a deputation to the Town Hall with a litany of complaints against the Elders.
Their spokesman Zafar Ali called for an investigation into where donated funds had gone.
He told the Tower Hamlets council meeting: "The management committee of the mosque is undemocratic, unrepresentative and selects it membership from its small circle of friends and relatives.
"Intimidation and bullying is commonly used to get mosque members or the public to stay silent or agree with them."
Mr Ali told the East London Advertiser after the meeting: "Having the community centre inside the mosque building will allow us to keep an eye out for extremists.
"We won't be able to do that if they're in different places."
But mosque chairman Mohammed Abdul Hafiz told the paper the allegations were "lies" and has asked the police for a heavier presence at the mosque.
He said: "The only thing we can do with this land is a mosque with community facilities, because that's what we got planning permission for.