Camberley Mosque 259


As someone who devotes much energy to battling Islamophobia, it is important equally to oppose false cries of Islamophobia whenever any Muslim group is thwarted. Otherwise “Islamophobic” will become a meaningless pejorative just as “Anti-semitic” is thrown at any rational critic of Israel.

Having looked at the dispute over Camberley Mosque, I feel that it is the Bengali community which is acting with gross insensitivity. They wish to pull down a listed Victorian building to build a mosque. I would oppose that were the proposed replacement a mosque, synagogue, church or Tesco.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/surrey/8561342.stm

The old scholl has in fact been in use for many years as an Islamic centre. There is no threat to that. It is demolition of the building which is objected to.

It strikes me that the very large and sturdy building looks ideal for sympathetic internal conversion to make it a better mosque. Failing that, the community can do what anybody else has to do whose needs have outgrown a listed building, and move the mosque elsewhere.

I encountered a similar arrogance and insensitivity from some members of the Muslim community while campaigning on Whalley Range in Blackburn, when I was faced with a demand that a pub close to a mosque be closed down. I replied that the pub had been there for over a hundred years before the mosque.

The deliberate spread of fear and hatred of Muslims by politicians, media and security services is a real problem. But what we must insist is that Muslims are treated both no worse and no better than anybody else.


259 thoughts on “Camberley Mosque

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  • John D. Monkey

    “But what we must insist is that Muslims are treated both no worse and no better than anybody else.”

    Amen to that!

    But no religion should get any special privileges. Especially they should not be allowed to run schools and have them paid for by the state.

    And they should only be registered as charities if they are doing genuinely charitable works with no proseltyising as part of the package.

    Nor should they get other tax breaks or favourable treatment by the planning system.

    THEN we might get a better society…

  • John

    Yes. I heard this on the radio this morning.

    There should be a dignified surrender to the home team’s history here.

    Living together should have an objective dimension, where all sides can understand and see the reasonable stop.

    I am surprised at the Planners’decision, in the first place–but the times change so rapidly and mischief is swift.

  • technicolour

    I doubt this would have made the national news, let alone the blogosphere, if the main protagonist had been Tesco.

  • Abi Summers

    Having been in conversation with a gentleman protesting about the mosque in Camberley, I now very much doubt the genuine natue of concern that people have for this listed building, which I imagine is in a bad state of repair inside. His comments ranged from the need for conservation, through to how we should prevent the Islamification of the U.K. in one short conversation. How dare people try to cover up their fears by using conservation as a facade. I agree with the above comment from technicolour.

  • Vronsky

    I’ll second John D Monkey. In Scotland, the SNP is threatening to introduce state-funded Muslim schools – as if we didn’t have enough utterly irrelevant shit in our lives from the Catholic ones (before you complain, I’m a Catholic with an Irish passport).

    I can support the sensible need to send positive signals to our Islamic community when so much that they see is negative, but social unity, whatever we mean by it, surely cannot be helped by religious apartheid in our schools. It’s over-compensation. As James Thurber wisely said – you might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards.

  • John D. Monkey

    “I doubt this would have made the national news, let alone the blogosphere, if the main protagonist had been Tesco.”

    You must be joking! Everthing Tesco do is crawled over by local and regional press, and there is a very active and dedicated anti-Tesco online and blogging community. Just Google “say no to tesco”.

    Not that they don’t deserve criticism, but all they are doing is what capitalist companies do: making money for their shareholders at the expense of people with less power than them – egged on or at least allowed to by spineless governments and local authorities of all political persuasions.

    Do you blame a killer whale for being a killer whale?

  • LibertyPhile

    Well, that is a relief. Not Islamophobia!

    Some of the people who criticise Muslims and what they get up to or believe in, might be quite reasonable, fair minded people*.

    That was the evidence gleaned from the comments and votes defending Michael Gove in response to the Guardian Cif blog “Gove’s unprincipled mosque stand”.

    An analysis

    http://libertyphile2.blogspot.com/2010/02/goves-unprincipled-mosque-stand.html

    found that the single biggest category of vote winning comments were those that said in so many words:

    “… the issue is largely to do with planning and local objections to the destruction of a building of some historical interest and its replacement with something totally out of character with the area.”

    A lesser number referred to:

    “…. the nature of Islam and the fact that you can’t build a church in Saudi Arabia, and in many Islamic majority countries other religions are hindered or suppressed. These are often prompted by comments supporting Mr Hiliar (the Liberal Democrat candidate for Camberley) claiming that the objection to the mosque is all to do with islamophobia.”

    *Now, what will be interesting is whether or not these people get to take part, or get listened to, in the current (MCB inspired) agitation to have a parliamentary investigation into Islamophobia.

  • brian

    That Tesco planning application in Norfolk (was it Sheringham?) got a lot more national coverage than Camberley Mosque, at least in my internet browsing/radio listening.

    Is it not valid to link the destruction of traditional buildings and transformation of city scapes with Mosques to the Islamification of our country?

    What are you criticising? The belief that Britain is being Islamicised? (Don’t you think it is?) Or the objection to the Islamification?

  • subrosa

    ‘I now very much doubt the genuine natue of concern that people have for this listed building, which I imagine is in a bad state of repair inside.’

    It may well be nowadays but it was in good repair when it was sold, by Surrey Heath council, to the Bangladeshi community.

    The majority of the objections were concerning the height of the building. Apart from a 230 year old church spire in the area, there is no other building of that height. It was well proven that the height was a security risk as it completely intruded upon the RMA Sandhurst nearby.

    If Tesco had planned to put a building of that height in such proximity to where our future military leaders are trained, they would have had the same knock-back.

    The problem here seems to be that Surrey Heath council were bending over backwards to accommodate the applicants without due regard for national security. This should have been thrown out at the first planning hearing.

    What shocks, but doesn’t surprise me, is the belated interest the MoD and the MP (Michael Gove) took in this case. I am sure Sandhurst officials would have informed them at the start that a proposal for a building of this height had been put forward.

    As Craig suggests, if the owner of the old school has outgrown it then find somewhere larger. Knocking down a listed building is not the answer. The old school is a delightful building (or was when I was last in it 25 years ago) and had been well maintained.

    Finally, let me say that if the CoE or the Catholic church had applied to demolish the building and build one of the size and height that was planned by the present owners, I am completely sure the result would have been the same.

  • technicolour

    John D Monkey: Do I blame a killer whale for being a killer whale? Never. Do I think that the fiduciary duty imposed upon corporations should be abolished? Absolutely. Do I think supermarkets should amend their purchasing policies, and the concomitant bankruptcy of/race to the bottom by the farming industry in the meantime? Yes. Do I think we can find alternatives? Again, yes.

    Brian: Tesco planning application: Norfolk. It’s true; mentioned in three of the nationals; quite well-covered by the Guardian; otherwise local coverage. Good, this is a landmark case. Tesco did not already own the site; Sheringham was one of the few towns left without a Tesco. Their fight to move in had been going on for a decade. In an exciting and newsworthy move, the council decided to back a local eco store instead. Do I have to point out the differences?

    However, you make my point for me:

    “Is it not valid to link the destruction of traditional buildings and transformation of city scapes with Mosques to the Islamification of our country?”

    The Islamification of our country? By under three percent of the population? Whose country it also is, by the way? You are joking.

  • anno

    Many new buildings are constructed with a 25 year life expectancy, and some of those are demolished even before that. I had a party of African sportsmen in stitches when I showed them a neo-Gothic extension to Magdalen College Oxford. They said they preferred their new buildings to be NEW. Historic building worship is a curious, English phenomenon.

    I have worked as an electrician on listed buildings for the Muslim community and I found that the building services were in need of complete overhaul, when you look under the surface of the decor. Walls, rooves, floors and staircases all made from wood unfortunately cannot be adapted to the standard of fire safety you would expect from a public building of any sort.

    Can I ask, Were the people of Iraq and Afghanistan consulted before this country and others demolished their infrastructures, legal institutions, and social fabric? Did anybody ask if the local community had a preferable response to simply knocking the countries flat? Islamification in this country happens only within the process of UK law. But invasions have totally contravened international law at many levels. One law for New Labour, another law for us.

  • Victoria Wood

    I am pleased to see that the important British heritage of this Victorian school building will be preserved. It is local councils responsibility to preserve parts of community history and as a British person with many Muslim and other faith friends I am deeply offended that any person would make this dispute a dispute of faith. It is not. This is a dispute of heritage and whilst Muslims are welcome to build mosques here in this country they can not do so by destroying British heritage.

    They, if they have outgrown the school will have to look elsewhere for alternative accommodation for the mosque and find a site more appropriate, that does not involved deleting part of an English town’s past.

  • brian

    I’m not saying whether it’s a good or bad thing but it is happening. Some people certainly object to that change, is it in some way offensive for them to object? I get the feeling you think it is.

  • technciolour

    But of course I agree that it’s not necessarily ‘Islamophobic’ to want to save an old school. The Camberley Save Our School campaign apparently want to work with the Bengali Welfare Association to find a way forward too. The BWA spokesperson sounded upset, and the Conservative council leader admitted there were ‘a few racist elements’ involved, so one hopes this will reassure them.

  • Anonymous

    Technicolour

    “Do I think that the fiduciary duty imposed upon corporations should be abolished? Absolutely. Do I think supermarkets should amend their purchasing policies, and the concomitant bankruptcy of/race to the bottom by the farming industry in the meantime? Yes. Do I think we can find alternatives? Again, yes.”

    1. For Government to do. Successive governments have done the opposite: emasculated competition policy, overriden their own planning policies, etc. Lord Sainsbury is labour’s biggest donor. The conservatives are never going to make big business act more responsibly. I’m not holding my breath.

    2. It would be nice but Dream on! Unless government forces them they will never deliberately forgo profit to give dairy farmers a fairer price. Monopsony doesn’t work that way. Capitalism is about profit through monopoly, not competition.

    3. I’d like to think so too – but am too realistic to hope. How could we do this, without retail and wholesale price maintenance laws?

  • brian

    would it be racist to object to the mosque replacing the church not because of any architectural significance of the church but because we are predominantly a country of christian tradition and a large overbearing mosque would constitute an “Islamification” of the area?

  • Vronsky

    I’d like to tackle head-on this canard – ‘Islamification’. What’s wrong with getting a little bit Islamicised? We are a mongrel people blending many influences and traditions, and what we regard as ‘British’ is an already complex cocktail. I can quite clearly see myself to be an Irish Scottish Catholic Protestant Christian Jewish muddle (Irish Catholic mother, Scottish Protestant father, Jewish life partner). Scrape back a couple of generations and there’s even more. I have at least one genetic condition I owe to the Vikings and god knows what forgotten race bequeathed me my nose.

    We can’t let ‘Islamification’ sound like some kind of plague – everyone who comes here influences us no more than we wish. ‘They’ become ‘us’. There’s a wonderful poem somewhere about the countless waves of invaders who have swept across our geography, leaving only place names.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Again we note how out touch with the local community both Michael Gove and Andrew Cleverly (who happens to be the Agent of Surrey Heath Conservative Assocation)was at the original planning meeting and being clapped and cheered by the supporters of the mosque.

  • Richard Robinson

    “would it be racist to object to the mosque” …

    Your comments concern religion, rather than race. Within which, there are many sects, some of them more or less tolerant than others. My personal opinion is, I keep away from the ones that don’t wish to accept the existence of others, on the grounds that sooner or later they’re going to intolerate me.

  • brian

    Vronsky – you could be right, I’ve heard others say it will be more a case of ‘us’ having to become ‘them’. Perhaps we should vote on it. Anyone for a referendum?

    Should

    a) ‘They’ become ‘us’

    b) ‘We’ become ‘them’

    If enough people vote a) will we have to convert all the mosques into Tesco 24 hr superstores? Maybe change Sunday opening hours to Friday as a mark of respect?

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Vronsky wrote: “There’s a wonderful poem somewhere about the countless waves of invaders who have swept across our geography, leaving only place names.”

    The primary source of your understanding of history should be history books and not history.

    You do understand that, gee, lots and lots of individuals were killed, right?

  • technicolour

    Sorry for long reply in advance

    JohnD (guess that was you):

    1. Quite. Still, in an early statement to Climate Camp, a spokesman for the Drax power station claimed that they shared the protestors’ objectives and ‘would like their help in getting government changes’. The protestors thought this a laughable ploy, but to me it might have been sincere: people in corporations do, after all live on the same planet.

    2. That’s why we have unions.

    3. See local eco store, above? Veg boxes. Allotments. Re-distribute land. Rebuild our greenhouses (Kent used to be covered with them). Add geothermally heated polytunnels (you can grown avocados in a polytunnel). Plant useful trees in public parks – apples, sweet chestnuts, hazels, figs. Reclaim edible food which otherwise goes to landfill. Switch from dairy to arable. Grown more hemp and flax for the seeds. To start with. There’s a great and detailed report on how Britain can feed itself, somewhere. I’ll try & find if you like.

    brian: no, I don’t think it would be technically be racist, because Islam is a religion, but it might be a little phobic. Anyway, the decision has been turned down, so I guess it won’t be possible to see whether the addition of something domed and a bit twiddly to the architectural landscape would constitute ‘Islamification’. Living near a few different mosques (including a beautifully tiled one), it doesn’t seem to have done. I mean, I walk around in shorts and everyone sells alcohol and er – what do you mean by ‘Islamification’, again?

    Meanwhile I sadly remember that our Christian tradition has not always been that great; remember the burnings? Also, I love a thing of beauty as much as anyone, but have just read a terrifying BBC report into asbestos in schools from which, it says, Victorian schools are not exempted. I hesitate to pass it on, but old schools should not necessarily be romanticised.

  • MJ

    I don’t like mosques. I find them alien and overweening. I don’t like synagogues or churches for the same reason. I wish all these middle-eastern mystery cults would have stayed at home. I much prefer henges and stone circles. They belong here.

    Vronsky is right. We are a mongrel people, reflecting centuries of diverse influences from foreign cultures. It’s what defines Britishness. So why not a bit of Islamification? At least the art is better than the garish Christian stuff.

    The foreign influence that really did for us, the one we never recovered from, was the Roman occupation. It brought us a class system and Christianity. Thanks a lot.

    I often wonder how things would have turned out if Boudica had defeated the Romans and sent them packing for good.

  • brian

    I guess I’d define it as the process of an area becoming more islamic in its religious, social and cultural activities and outlook, but then I’d never get a job at the OED.

    Glad you enjoy it anyway, and I’m sure lots of other people do. Just wondered what you thought about those people who don’t. Should they be able to have a say about it? Are they racist for objecting to it?

    As for the Christian tradition I’m sure you’re right to knock it. I think all those Christians have got a nerve and I don’t know how the druids ever put up with them.

  • MJ

    “I don’t know how the druids ever put up with them”.

    They didn’t have the opportunity. The Romans wiped them out.

  • John D. Monkey

    MJ

    “I don’t like mosques. I find them alien and overweening. I don’t like synagogues or churches for the same reason.”

    I know what you mean but it doesn’t have to be that way. Partly I think it’s a matter of size / scale and “in-your-face-ness” (can’t think of a synonym from the dictionary).

    Although not a religious person I do like small country churches, the small orthodox ones that abound in the greek islands, and some smaller older mosques in the sub-continent. Many of the latter have no minarets (there is nothing in Islam that requires these) and are more discreet buildings which don’t rub the dominance of the religion in.

    Cathedrals etc. were / are deliberately designed to dominate, to shock and awe to use a neologism. I think its related to the tension between the superiority complex and the lack of confidence inherent in religion: you can’t prove your beliefs are “correct” or that “God” exists. So you try to intimidate / bully the ordinary people into accepting your narrative and your social control of them. Also to give you their money.

  • Chief Druid

    “They didn’t have the opportunity. The Romans wiped them out.”

    I wouldn’t say that out loud in Glastonbury.

    Bloody Romans. What have they ever done for us?

  • dreoilin

    But the Romans never came to Ireland. Isn’t it a bit strange? And then one of our pagan Celtic raiding parties went to Wales, kidnapped the son of a Roman tax collector, and brought him back here to tend sheep. From whence he escaped, came back as a Bishop, and turned us all Christian. More’s the pity! I’m with you, MJ, I much I much prefer henges and stone circles.

  • MJ

    “Bloody Romans. What have they ever done for us?”

    I just knew someone would say that.

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