London Tabligh-i-Jamaat "mega-mosque" opposed
CIP International Director Al-Alawi quoted on Tablighi Jamaat megamosque project in London
by Jonathan Wynne-Jones
The Sunday Telegraph [London]
October 19, 2008
Olympic mosque could create breeding ground for extremists, says senior Anglican
Dr Philip Lewis, an interfaith adviser to the Bishop of Bradford, said that the plans threaten to establish a ghetto of Muslims taught to embrace jihad.
Tablighi Jamaat, the group behind the proposal, are "isolationist", "patriarchal" and has a narrow reading of Islam that leaves it vulnerable to extremists, he said.
In the first intervention by a Church figure over the controversial project, Dr Lewis raised fears that a 12,000-capacity mosque in London would lead to a segregated Muslim community. The mosque would be four times the size of Britain's largest cathedral.
"Tablighi Jamaat does not try to engage with wider society so there must be clear worries that such a mosque would lead to a ghetto," he said.
"The danger is that this becomes a self-contained world, which would be vulnerable to extremists."
The leaders of the liquid bomb plot, who were last month found guilty of conspiracy to kill, attended mosques run by Tablighi Jamaat. Suicide bombers who carried out terrorist attacks in July 2005 also went to meetings held by the group.
Dr Lewis, one of the Church's most respected Islamic experts, said that the organisation lacks Muslim scholars and does not educate its followers in the "richness of Islam".
He added: "If you're drawn into a minimalist reading of Islam it can turn very easily into isolationism.
"There's a religious supremacy in their teaching which doesn't accept other religions. It can create an us and them mentality."
According to Dr Lewis, followers of the sect are told not to mix with non-Muslims and read a book, called the Tablighi Nisab, which "could be read as a romanticisation of jihad".
He also raised concerns about their treatment of women, revealing that the group is extremely conservative in refusing to allow women to leave the home unless they are accompanied by a male.
Furthermore, women are not permitted to interact with a man that is unrelated, the interfaith adviser said.
"Do you want an iconic building that unwittingly privileges this reading of Islam?
"If one is serious about cohesion and encouraging people to live well together then Tablighi Jamaat have serious questions to answer," he said.
His comments follow a private meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy earlier this month who fear that the mosque could have a negative effect on east London, the proposed site for the building.
Councillor Alan Craig, who leads the Christian People's Alliance and organised the meeting, said that Dr Lewis's contribution to the debate was a great boost to the campaign to block the mosque.
He said: "For someone of Philip Lewis's stature and experience, who has good relations with Muslims, to make these comments is a great help to our campaign.
"It shows that this is a reasoned campaign against the mega-mosque and is not built on Islamaphobia, but on facts and evidence."
A spokesman for Tablighi Jamaat said that the group plans to proceed with the planning application, which is likely to be made next summer.
"If people want to bring objections they'll have the chance to do so when the application is made, but they will have to be pertinent to planning law," he said.
Senior Government sources told The Sunday Telegraph last year that it is prepared to block the proposal to build the mosque over planning issues and concern for its impact on community relations.
There are clear planning grounds on which the development could be turned down. It is so close to the main Olympic venues that it may interfere with preparations for the Games.
The proposal, which includes a 500-place Islamic school, has met with resistance from Christians whose plans for an
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