“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers... “ Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister of Turkey.
A mosque is not like a local parish church. A mosque is a place where Muslims can come together for prayer, but it is also a center for information, a centre for Islamic education, and a place where disputes are settled under Islamic law. Mosques are at the very core of a Muslim community and, if there is one within a reasonable distance, Muslims must go there to pray; in return for there being “more reward in the congregational prayer in the mosque”. Build a mosque and it becomes a focus for a growing Muslim community.
It is no wonder therefore that there is increasing resistance to the opening of yet another mosque. The answer? Don’t call it ‘mosque’, call it a ‘community centre’, call it a ‘multicultural faith centre’, call it a ‘prayer centre’. And so, local businessman Kaiser Choudry, on behalf of the Shia Muslim (http://www.scribd.com/doc/4085102/The-Faith-of-Shia-Islam) Al-Hayat Foundation (http://www.alhayatfoundation.org), applied to turn the disused Melrose Arms pub into a ‘prayer centre’ for the local Muslim community, consisting of 5 or 6 families.
The local villagers complained. No problem, the prayer centre instead became a religious education centre and Durham County Council, supported by Easington MP Grahame Morris, ignoring the 13 letters of objection and a 102-signature petition objecting to the proposed development they had received, ignoring concerns about traffic, parking, local nuisance, ignoring the fact that this severely depressed community needs investment in jobs, in infrastructure, in the community as a whole and not a small exclusive group, not only decided to let the application for planning go ahead, but to look for ways to convert the property that would not need planning permission.
On Saturday, 1st December, roughly 200 EDL members supported by an estimated 300 local residents took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the proposed conversion. If the authorities will not listen to reasoned objections then we will make them listen with our physical presence and our voices.
Two men were arrested “on suspicion of breaching bail conditions” but otherwise the march went peacefully. The police however did intervene promptly to intercept a Muslim onlooker who, armed with a bag of human excrement, had apparently planned to give her objections to the protest more force. We are grateful to the police for preventing what could have been a very unpleasant situation.
Inspired by the success of the EDL protest, local residents have opened an e-petition at:
As the words of the petition put it: “Shotton Colliery residents are against the opening of an Islamic centre / Mosque being opened in this small ex pit village. The village already has education services funded by other partnerships working in the best interests of the village.”
It’s a shame that the local authorities seem to have other concerns than looking after the best interests of the people it is supposed to represent and answer to. However, when the wishes and concerns of local communities are ignored, when the interests of Muslim communities are given priority over those of local residents, the EDL will be there. We will not be ignored, and we will not be silenced. We will not stand by and watch our culture, our community and way of life be ripped apart in the name of ‘religious tolerance’ while intolerant, exclusive religious communities assimilate, convert and corrupt what was once a part of our heritage.
No surrender, not in Sutton Colliery, not now, not ever.