The British government has blocked plans by a radical Islamic group known as the “Army of Darkness” to build the largest mosque in Western Europe.
Tablighi Jamaat wanted to build a 290,000 square foot “mega mosque” with 190-foot minarets near the Olympic park in East London. The project, which was backed by the local Conservative Party, would have had space for 11,000 worshippers and three times the floor space of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, and its minarets would have been two thirds the size of Big Ben.
However, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, journalist Andrew Gilligan reports that, after a bitter 16-year battle, the government is now finally set to veto the plans. The project was first rejected by Newham Council in 2012 due to concerns the building was too big, but Tablighi Jamaat appealed and took the plans to a three-week public inquiry last summer.
The final report was submitted to the government in January, but ministers have refused to act until now due to political sensitivities.
Sources close to Communities Secretary Greg Clark say he has now finally taken the decision to block the scheme.
Alan Craig, who led the campaign against the mosque, described the decision as “fantastic news”. “For a decade and a half, Tablighi Jamaat has pulled out every stop to get its way, but at last the spectre is over.”
Craig was subject to a spoof “obituary” featuring him and his family that was uploaded to a YouTube channel linked to on the mosque website.
Pro-mosque protesters also formed a group called Newham People’s Alliance (NPA) and blockaded council offices while the planning committee considered the application. It also ran a campaign calling Sir Robin Wales, the mayor of Newham, a “racist” and “Zionist”.
Tablighi Jamaat is an ultra-conservative Muslim group that has alleged links to terrorism. Its current headquarters are in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire where it runs the Markazi Masjid mosque – as well as a school whose pupils are forbidden from watching TV or speaking to outsiders.
The Markazi Masjid has been linked to Talhal Asmal, who became Britain’s youngest suicide bomber earlier this year after blowing himself up while fighting for Islamic State in Syria.
The Daily Mail has also linked the mosque to two of the 7/7 bombers, writing in 2006: “The mosque is run by Tablighi Jamaat, a radical Islamic movement believed by intelligence agencies to be a fertile source for recruiting young extremists.”
The same year, The Times said: “Several of the suspects arrested in August over the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners had attended meetings of Tablighi Jamaat, which French intelligence has labelled an ‘antechamber of fundamentalism’. The FBI says it is a fertile breeding ground for al-Qaeda.”
The Times also reported the following year: “One of the suicide bombers who attacked London in July 2005, Shehzad Tanweer, studied at the Deobandi seminary in Dewsbury and Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 terror plot, was a regular worshipper at the adjoining mosque. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was said to have been influenced by Tablighi Jamaat, several of whose adherents were also among those arrested last year over an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners.”
The High Court ordered the group to close their temporary mosque in Newham in 2013, but it has so far failed to do so.