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Residents' disgust over 'divisive' anti-mosque leaflets

Flyers delivered to Newbury households urging them to object to plans

Dan Cooper

Reporter:

Dan Cooper

Contact:

01635 886632

Residents' disgust over 'divisive' anti-mosque leaflets

NEWBURY residents have spoken of their disgust after receiving “hurtful and divisive leaflets” encouraging them to object to plans for a new mosque in the town.

The Newbury Jamme Mosque and Bangladeshi Welfare Centre, in Pound Street (pictured), wants to raise £400,000 for a new “cultural and community centre” in a nearby location.

However, many residents had a flyer posted through their doors last week entitled ‘Does Newbury need a 2,500 sq foot mosque here?’ which urges them to disapprove of the proposals.

One resident, who didn’t want to be named, said: “This anonymous petition just dropped through my letterbox and I am saddened and angry about it. 

“Would this have dropped through my letterbox if it was a petition for a new church building? Probably not. 

“I do hope that some noise is made about this as this is an often unfairly discriminated minority of law-abiding citizens that add value to our community.

“To treat them in this way is, in my view, unacceptable.”

The leaflets have also been met with anger from Waheeda Soomro, a prominent member of the local Muslim community and former chief operations officer at All2gether.

She said: “I am very proud to be part of the active and integrated local Muslim community of Newbury and Thatcham.

“We have no room for hate mongering, creating fear and division.

“The local Muslim community has been very active in building community cohesion and understanding, dispelling myths and assumptions about Islam.”

Another resident, who got in touch with the Newbury Weekly News, said: “This canvassing by an unknown person or group seems to me to be very hurtful and divisive and in our current situation extremely unhelpful.”

One other contacted the NWN to say: “Like many residents of Newbury I recently received through my letterbox material encouraging me to object to the development of a new mosque in Newbury.

“These forms have been produced to look like official council literature, and are in any case at best legally dubious.

“This is a clear and blatant attempt to subvert the normal planning application process, and is wholly predicated on anti-Islam sentiment, rather than any real concern for the built environment of Newbury.”

Another resident who received a flyer added: “Whilst the body of the text in the leaflet isn’t offensive, I found the sentiment fairly offensive.

“It’s basically inciting people to object to the relocation of the mosque, currently on Pound Street.

“Obviously if people want to object then that is their democratic right, but someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to highlight this application, so it does make me wonder what their end goal is.

“I am not associated with the mosque in any way but think this is a bit unfair.”

The leaflet shows a map of the position of the proposed new mosque, a photograph of the building to be taken over, and the address of the planning department at West Berkshire Council. 

It claims the proposed mosque is out of keeping in a residential and business area, that there is inadequate parking and that the mosque would be open every day. 

The leaflet also claims that at certain times throughout the year, at special religious festivals, there would be increased congestion.

On the mosque’s website, it says: “At the present moment, we are renting sports halls and have a small mosque in Newbury but neither of these can be a long-term solution.

“We wish to have a centre where we can pray, hold maths and English classes for our children, undertake sports activities (such as indoor football, cricket, tennis), have a regular point of contact with the statutory services (police, ambulance, fire, NHS, housing associations, town council etc).

“Somewhere we can provide assistance and reassurance to those in need, promote cultural understanding by inviting others (of any faith or of none at all) to associate and share points of view.”

Newbury Jamme Masjid is the first mosque to be built in Newbury and was opened to the public in 2000. 

The Newbury Jamme Mosque & Bangladesh Welfare Centre is open to visitors throughout the year.

On the website, it adds: “Since the mosque was built, it has become a focal point for the Muslim community.”

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Article comments

  • Suzie

    25/06/2017 - 19:07

    WI found this whole article one sided and biased.The so called comments were unsubstantiated.There was no information on the proposed facade of the new mosque.Surely all services and bodies (NHS, council, etc, etc.)cannot run around going to the public at their bidding, the services are hard stretched financially already, this personal service would end up costing more.If we are all to integrate,why would Muslim children not use the local facilities?,such as the sports centres and take part in local activities with various other groups.Why is there a need to teach maths and English ?,when our professional teachers and schools do an excellent job for everyone.The comment regarding building a new church is not a true comparison as this is a Christian Country.It would seem that while we are supposedly a democratic country the producers of the leaflet are free to distribute this information and not be made to feel bullied by one journalist and a local newspaper.

    Reply

  • Suzie

    25/06/2017 - 19:07

    I found this whole article one sided and biased.The so called comments were unsubstantiated.There was no information on the proposed facade of the new mosque.Surely all services and bodies (NHS, council, etc, etc.)cannot run around going to the public at their bidding, the services are hard stretched financially already, this personal service would end up costing more.If we are all to integrate,why would Muslim children not use the local facilities?,such as the sports centres and take part in local activities with various other groups.Why is there a need to teach maths and English ?,when our professional teachers and schools do an excellent job for everyone.The comment regarding building a new church is not a true comparison as this is a Christian Country.It would seem that while we are supposedly a democratic country the producers of the leaflet are free to distribute this information and not be made to feel bullied by one journalist and a local newspaper.

    Reply

  • nasha

    17/06/2017 - 11:11

    In the UK we claim to be all for freedom of speech. If these people want to canvas an area asking for support objecting the building of a new mosque that is their right, As a country we are currently in an age of civil unrest, A lot of bad things are happening in the name of Allah by a very small segment of the Muslim community in this country. A lot of what is going on is being hidden from the public so to all the people in areas such as Newbury and Thatcham who are currently living sheltered lives can I suggest you find alternate news sources and educate yourself on the current situation in other parts of the Country.

    Reply

  • richr

    16/06/2017 - 19:07

    This article makes no attempt to inform on what is going on here. There is a small part of the article that indicates that the leaflet isn't offensive -- is it then merely a leaflet informing the locals about the impact of a new development? The suggestion in the article is that the purpose of the leaflet is anti-Islam, but there is no indication from the piece of the opposite possibility -- that those pro the development are using the 'anti-Islam' argument to quash this opposition. It would be nice to have some decent analysis on this matter. Perhaps indicate the efforts made by the Mosque to inform the local residents and allay any worries they might have, or maybe have some quotes from the council regarding the validity (or not) of the points raised in the leaflet.

    Reply

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