Faith leaders condemn 'hostile and racist' opposition to plans for Islamic centre in Golders Green Hippodrome

Faith leaders have condemned critics over “hostile and racist” opposition to proposals for a new Islamic centre in a former north London Hippodrome.

The Hippodrome in Golders Green was snapped up for £5.25 million by Markaz El Tathgheef El Eslami, the Centre for Islamic Understanding - writes

A planning application has now been submitted to Barnet Council for the former entertainment venue – which in the past hosted the likes of the Kinks – to convert it into a Muslim community centre and mosque.

The proposals sparked a wave of objections from residents, one of whom opposed the centre on the grounds that it would “make this beautiful neighbourhood crowded with loads of burkas and veils”.

Almost 30 members of an interfaith forum in the north London borough have hit out at the “hostile” and “racist” response to the plans, in an open letter that welcomes the Markaz El Tathgheef El Eslami.

It was signed by representatives of Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches, imams, Sikhs, rabbis, Quakers and Methodists, and posted on Facebook.

“As clergy and faith representatives we unanimously deplored and condemned the hostile and, at times, racist response to the new Islamic Centre’s opening,” the letter read.

“We are sure the new Islamic community will contribute, with us, to the neighbourhood’s character, harmony and safety.”

Gavin Boby, of the Law and Freedom Foundation, said the plans were “the biggest threat to the sense of home for Jews since Cable Street” – referring to 1930s fascists in east London.

His comments came at a meeting two weeks ago, where he protested against the proposals, the Guardian reported.

Mr Boby reportedly said he had challenged 47 planning applications for mosques in the past, and claims he stopped 33 from being approved.

A petition asking the council to deny the application for the Grade II listed former music venue on the grounds of increased traffic, air and noise pollution has gained more than 5,000 signatures.

Hundreds of objections have been lodged with the local authority, which was forced to remove all comments on the proposal from its website due to increasingly racist language.

Commenting on the campaign against the plans, Marcus Dysch, political editor at the Jewish Chronicle, wrote on Twitter: “Hard to see [the campaign] as anything other than inexcusable, blatant Islamophobia.”

A spokesperson for Barnet council said a date to decide the planning application had not been set but it was working with the new owners of Hippodrome and the local community “to ease tensions”, according to the Guardian.

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