In the summer of 2015 a group of far-right English nationalists were planning a demonstration in Golders Green against its “Jewification” as they delightfully put it.
The north-west London suburb has a large Jewish population and these racists were saying the Jews had taken over the area and turned it into a ghetto from which non-Jews had been pushed out.
The London Jewish Forum (which I chair) helped organise a cross-communal campaign with the support of local synagogues, churches and other faith and anti-racist groups and with the local MP and councillors to make something positive out of the situation - a celebration of diversity. We called that campaign Golders Green Together.
With not a little irony, two years later, a group of opponents of the recent application to change the use of the Hippodrome to an Islamic centre have appropriated the name of our campaign to promote their own based on overt Islamophobia and bigoted language.
The further irony is that some of the language and logic is little different to that used by the far right. Instead of it being Jewification Golders Green faces being “colonised” by Muslims to subdue and drive out the Jews and anyone else from the area.
Likewise these campaigners also seem to think that Golders Green is indeed a ghetto or a “uniquely Jewish area” which cannot tolerate the presence of the Muslim faith. The spectre of terrorism has been raised and yet the due diligence of the police, the CST and the Board of Deputies has identified no issue of political extremism within the relevant community, let alone a terrorist threat.
The proposed change in use requires scrutiny from a planning perspective. Speaking to local residents in the West Heath Drive area there are some localised parking issues, to which there may well be practical solutions. But the residents I have spoken to know that the approach of the bigoted Islamophobes is a dead end and self-defeating. The main Jewish representative bodies have rightly taken a stand against this prejudice. There cannot be an accommodation of bigotry especially when some of it comes from elements within our own community. Intolerance in all its forms must be resisted.