Barnet Council has come under fire after deleting hundreds of comments objecting to plans for a mosque in a suburb home to one of Britain’s largest Jewish communities.
The Grade-II listed Golders Green Hippodrome was bought earlier this year for £5.25 million by the Centre for Islamic Enlightening, a Muslim charity which announced it plans to use the building to house a mosque and Islamic centre.
Citing “inappropriate comments”, Barnet Council announced it had deleted hundreds of objections received in response to a public consultation regarding the application, which closes Thursday, and also prompted a petition which amassed more than 5,000 signatures.
“While we have a legal duty to hear views regarding local planning matters, we also have a responsibility to ensure that people are not using Council platforms to air views that are inappropriate,” stated the council on its website.
“Further comments will now be removed every 24 hours until the end of the public consultation.”
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The council’s decision to scrap comments attracted anger from residents, whose petition highlighted fears that — if built — the planned mosque and Islamic centre would result in the “deterioration of the quality of our lives and our safety”.
“Deleting comments because they were against this proposal smacks of corruption,” wrote Melissa Campbell. “You are paid to listen to everyone’s view, not just the ones that suit your obvious agenda.”
“To propose building a mega mosque in the middle of a predominantly Jewish community is beyond disgraceful,” Campbell continued, and accused the council of “acting entirely in the interests of Muslims … [while] ignoring the voices of Jewish and others who live in the area and are totally opposed to this.”
“If there is truth in what I have read, that the council have been removing objections from the public, then they should be ashamed of themselves and those involved sacked,” read a comment from Miss P. Washington, which went on to assert there are “much better uses for such a beautiful building” as the Hippodrome than turning it into mosque.
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On Tuesday, the Times of Israel reported that opponents of plans to turn Golders Green Hippodrome into an Islamic centre “showered derision on the Jewish press” at a recent “town hall” meeting, after community media outlets published a string of articles denouncing objections to the mosque as “racist” and “Islamophobic”.
“There is nothing fascist about wanting to stand up for the amenities of your area,” argued keynote speaker at the event, Gavin Boby, who described the proposed mosque in Golders Green as “the biggest threat to the sense of home for Jews since Cable Street”.
Pronouncing the Quran to be “more anti-Semitic than [Adolf Hitler’s] Mein Kampf”, the self-described “mosque-buster” told audience members: “If the Jewish population are driven out of Golders Green they probably won’t come back when we make this area safe for them. I don’t care if this is called fascist, people need to know the truth.”