A pensioner has accused his Asian local councillor of bullying him by accusing him of Islamophobia, after he and a number of other residents raised concerns over a sizeable mosque to be built on local greenbelt land.
Maurice Rushby told the Daily Mail that the accusation came from Conservative councillor and former mayor Dylan Butt in response to “legitimate concerns” he raised over plans to build a 20,000 sq ft, £2 million mosque and Islamic community centre on a field near his home in Timperley near Altrincham, Greater Manchester.
The plans, drawn up by the Altrincham and Hale Muslim Association in consultation with planners, include a two-story “Pavilion in the Park” complete with two main prayer halls, a “garden of contemplation”, a cafe and gallery space, and parking for 165 vehicles.
But locals fear the centre will drive up traffic in the area, and more than 1,500 have signed a petition opposing the development.
Retired chemical engineer Mr. Rushby said he emailed Cllr Butt asking: “There have been numerous rumours regarding the development of a large mosque. Are you are aware of this proposed development and what do we need to do to oppose it?”
In reply, Cllr Butt listed a number of other planning applications in the area and asked why Mr. Rushby had not complained about them.
The councillor continued: “There is a significant sized Muslim community within the area which has expressed a genuine need for relocating from their existing centre to another nearby larger site.
“We cannot start jumping up and down as soon as some individuals contact us to oppose anything regarded as a wind-up as you put it.
“This would be considered as tantamount to Islamophobia if it is not argued on planning guidelines. You or indeed I as a local councillor would not wish to be accused of such attitudes.”
Mr. Rushby has now accused Cllr Butt of playing the race card in order to bully him.
“I am deeply upset and offended by even the suggestion that my actions maybe [sic] racially motivated,” he said. “His mention of the word ‘Islamophobia’ is totally irrelevant and unnecessary. If Mr Butt was to disagree with a point I made I would never suggest he was being ‘Christianophobic’.”
He added: “His actions are improper and tantamount to bullying.”
Trafford Council, on which Cllr Butt sits, has confirmed that he is being investigated over complaints he breached their code of conduct.
In a letter, director of legal and democratic services at Trafford Council Jane Le Fevre said: “The councillor has five working days to make written representations to me.”