Pro-Israel activists have backed a new Islamic centre in Golders Green, London, after finding out that it isn’t Sunni, doesn’t follow Iran and isn’t obsessed with Israel.
After a visit by members of the Jewish community to the mosque on Monday, The Israel Advocacy Movement said that Jews who oppose the new mosque shouldn’t rush to judgement and should do their own research.
One of the Zionists who visited the mosque was Joseph Cohen, the founder and chairman of the Israel Advocacy Movement, who often turns up at anti-Israel protests to challenge pro-Palestinians. He was pictured standing next to Mustafa Field, a Muslim interfaith activist, during the visit.
The building was bought earlier this year for £5.25 million by the Centre for Islamic Enlightening. It will now house the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Islamic centre serving the Shia community, mostly of Iraqi heritage. The centre follows Grand Ayatollah Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi who is known for his opposition to the Iranian ruling authorities, who are fiercely anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian.
The local Jewish community in Golders Green seem to be split over the new mosque. Some have expressed concerns over road congestion and parking, and others have spouted Islamophobic rhetoric on social media platforms about the presence of an Islamic centre in the heart of the Jewish community.
More than 6,000 people have signed a petition against plans to turn the former Golders Green Hippodrome into a mosque. The petitioners clam it will cause “disruption”, citing traffic and pollution problems. They say they wish to “restore the charm, harmony and safety of our family neighbourhood,” and have called on Barnet Council to “approach the management of the centre and oblige them to make the necessary arrangements and changes in order to stop the deleterious impact on the lives of the local residents and their visitors.”
Others, meanwhile, including the Jewish media, have condemned opposition to the mosque and the Islamophobic rhetoric surrounding it.
The Israel Advocacy Movement posted on their Facebook page: “So this evening we were shown around the ‘Golders Green Mega Mosque’, turns out it isn’t even a mosque (never mind a mega mosque – what an anticlimax 😉 ) – it’s a community centre. There has been a lot of talk about this amongst the followers of this page. So even though it has nothing to do with Israel we thought we’d update you with what we discovered.
– The mosque is affiliated with Ayatollah Shirazi, not Ayatollah Khomeini
– Consequently it doesn’t have anything to do with the al-Quds march
– The people that showed us around were incredibly warm and welcoming
– Those of you that are involved in campaigning against this mosque/commmunity centre, please don’t rush to judgement do your own research.
“For those of us that live in North West London, they are our neighbours and some of you haven’t judged them favourably.”
Another Jewish activist who visited the mosque, Stuart Levy, added: “The Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham centre is a Shi’a community. They are mainly Persian in origin and their spiritual leaders were and are in opposition to the regime in Iran lead by the ayatollahs. They have a strong history of interfaith coexistence and have generally steered away from politics and political power, both here and in Iran. Recently they have been vocal in their denunciation of Jihadist groups.
“They differ in many customs and rituals from their Sunni co-Muslims. Specifically the big Friday jumma prayer does not feature as large for Shia Muslims as it does for Sunni Muslims. The centre does not hold Friday Jumma prayers as it is not a mosque.
“In the past in Iran this community had good relations with the Jewish community and there is nothing to suggest otherwise in recent times here in Britain, nor is there any evidence of anti Zionist obsession. Therefore the petitioning and abusive language aimed at the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham centre can only be understood in terms of fear and ignorance.
“For sure, the world is a difficult place. Jewish communities have had a very turbulent time in recent years and much of the venom has come from some groups within the wider Muslim community. But to put all Muslims in one wrapper is neither intellectually credible or helpful. We are much better served by understanding who our friends are and who are not.“
Later, Mr Levy deleted the references to Iran and substituted them for Iraq.
Meanwhile, more than 100 Golders Green residents discussed ways to force the closure of the new Islamic centre in a heated public meeting on Monday.
Attendees were addressed by Gavin Boby, who is known as “the mosque-buster,” having waged 47 campaigns against the establishment of mosques across the UK.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that Mr Boby repeatedly used incendiary language in reference to Muslims and terrorism. This was met with laughter and applause by the majority of the audience. He also made a number of allusions to terrorism.
According to the newspaper he said: “The previous owners of the building were granted planning permission to turn it into a church with a lot of public performances, too. It was used for concerts, drama and dance festivals. But those are forbidden within Islam. Sometimes you might see women dancing and men stomping about with Kalashnikovs but you certainly can’t take your daughter to see a girl band. The punishment would be to have molten lead in your ear.
“As soon as you get a mosque, you get the parking jihad. On a Friday lunchtime or in the evening during Koran time you won’t be able to park your car.”
Mr Boby also referred to mosques’ historical uses as “fortresses” and “places of executions,” adding that “terrorists form plots in mosques” where they cannot be detected.
During a question and answer session, residents voiced concerns about the construction of minarets and the prospect of worshippers praying in the street.