The self-styled community leaders behind a bid to build a mega mosque in Dudley in the United Kingdom have been revealed to be deeply divided and undecided in their approach to the situation, casting new doubts on the planning application.
The Dudley Muslim Association (DMA) – who behave as if the speak for each of Dudley’s many thousands of Muslims – apparently has several different people claiming to be their ‘company secretary’, with different factions within the organisation clearly divided over the out of court settlement that was supposed to secure the deal.
After a decade long legal battle, Dudley Council’s Labour cabinet looked set to accept a £325,000 out of court settlement to override the democratic process of the council and push ahead with construction.
But, in the final stages of the process, as the council quizzed the Muslim group’s leaders, and what ensued was quite bizarre.
Mr Mahmood Hussain claimed to be the DMA’s company secretary as he gave evidence to a council meeting on Monday, The Dudley News reports. He revealed that not all of the community had been consulted, and that he personally didn’t agree with the £325,000 deal, but maintained he wanted the mosque to go ahead.
It was then put to him that one Mr Abdul Kayum was actually recorded on documents as being ‘company secretary.’ Hussain said the discrepancy was merely due to “governance issues.” Councilors were left stumped, wondering if the offer was reliable.
Arbab Nazir, who has led the DMA’s negotiations with the council, elaborated later: “This is an internal matter we have been dealing with for more than two-and-a-half years. There was a change of governance in 2013 and while some people may claim to be the company secretary, Mr Kayum is,” he said.
The build up to this deal has been extraordinary, and it would be remarkable if it fell apart now because some faction within Dudley’s Muslim population did not favour the solution.
Committee chairman Councillor Dave Tyler said: “This is an internal matter but it needs to be sorted out. People purporting to be who they aren’t doesn’t look good on your committee or these proceedings.”
There has been sustained opposition to the location and the size of the plans, but not against a new mosque per se, since it was proposed in 2007.
The planned minarets have been reduced from 108 to 59 feet, so they do not dwarf local medieval buildings, and the number of other buildings has been reduced.
It has been argued that vast plot of land land, of which only a small part will be used, should be used to create local jobs, and that many of the facilities planned for the huge site (such as sports facilities, an education centre and a two-story car park) are available in town. Building the mega mosque would merely serve to further segregate and impoverish the town, critics have claimed.
Through all this, the council has incurred and eye watering £213,000 in legal costs. The land on which the mosque is planned, which is already owned by the DMA, is thought to be worth £150,000. The Council, therefore, had democratically decided to begin court action to halt the construction and forcibly buy back the land.
The £325,000 out of court settlement was supposed to stop the council following this path. However the deal denies the people of Dudley a say, and the amount has been criticised as far too little – a bad deal for the town.