I have lived in West Heath [in Golders Green] for almost 25 years and believe I speak on behalf of the vast majority of local residents in unequivocally condemning the Islamophobic and racist comments being made by some members of our own community. This backdrop of bigoted sentiment is detracting from the real issues which are facing local residents on a daily and nightly basis.
Commentary and opinions such as those expressed by Stephen Pollard and Laura Marks in the JC, while well intentioned, are, however, adding fuel to the fire and are undermining the legitimate, measured and totally justifiable concerns of those of us who have had our quiet residential neighbourhood overwhelmed by the sudden influx of worshippers.
In making their case against racist responses to the arrival of Shia Muslims in Golders Green, Messrs Pollard and Marks provide unbalanced analysis and play down the parking, congestion and late night noise issues as mere technical details. They fail to acknowledge, other than in passing, that objecting to the planning application to open up the Hippodrome to Muslim worship until half past midnight, seven days a week and petitioning Barnet council regarding resident parking restrictions are the only tools available to the local population to manage the situation.
To put this in context, the Hippodrome has been used for the last 10 years only on Sundays as a church and prior to that for several decades even more intermittently by the BBC. With a capacity approaching 1,000 worshippers (almost all of whom come by car from outside the area) and services being held up to five times a day, the surrounding road network cannot cope.
Our experience to date is that the new visitors to the Hippodrome are largely prepared to ignore parking restrictions and happy to park over driveways and block access to roads. During the two weeks of [the Muslim sacred month of] Muharram my own driveway was blocked on numerous occasions and a great many other residents experienced the same problem.
I would urge you not to sacrifice the legitimate concerns of residents on the altar of political correctness. Not everyone who wants to be able to access their own driveway or business premises is a bigot or racist. Please think twice before condemning a local community for fighting within the letter of the law for a sensible response from Barnet to the challenges it faces.
I refer to the article in the Evening Standard on 16th October relating to the use being made of the Golders Green Hippodrome by an Islamic centre and the thousands of objections. This prompted your political editor Marcus Dysch to tweet “ hard to see (the campaign ) as anything other than inexcusable blatant Islamophobia.”
If Mr Dysch lived in West Heath or anywhere near the Hippodrome he would have experienced road blockages — cars unable to go back or forward as parked cars were on both sides of the roads, noise, slamming of car doors etc to past midnight.
We have controlled parking in the area up to 6.30 pm which works well but what is now proposed is to increase uncontrolled parking up to 12.30am. Apparently the present consent for the previous use was for parking up to 11.30pm.
Based upon the above Mr Dysch, would you not object. It has nothing to do with Islamophobia.
Stephen Pollard says “shame on the protestors” who are concerned about the conversion of the Hippodrome to an Islamic Centre. But he is making an assumption about the bona fides of the objectors that may be completely unjustified — we simply do not have the data to generalise about their concerns. Until we do, it would surely be preferable for those in leadership positions who have been so quick to make assumptions to keep their counsel.
The recent furore over the Golders Green Hippodrome is of concern, as Laura Marks has written. Ms Marks mentioned that anti-Muslim rhetoric around Arabic being spoken by congregants of the Centre for Islamic Enlightening and its association with violence and terrorism does not bode well for future community relations and such intolerance needs to be challenged.
The fact is that the Shia, a minority sect in Islam, are much less likely to be involved in terrorist activities. Jihadist Salafist-based extremism, linked to groups like Isis, target Shia Muslims for torture, murder and annihilation. So, in all fairness, the chances of terrorism and Isis-type activity by Shia Muslims, is virtually nil.
Therefore, my call is that both communities celebrate their joint desire to counter and challenge extremism together.
Founder and director of Faith Matters
I find it very sad that some members of the Jewish community have used threatening abusive language against Muslims while opposing the Islamic Centre in Golders Green.
Objection to a planning application is the right of any individuals in a democratic society but to air religious hatred against any faith is not called for.
As a Muslim I have great respect for Jewish religion, as there are so many practices and beliefs common to both faiths.
During last few decades a microscopic minority has turned to criminal violence in the name of Islam which is strongly condemned by overwhelming majority of Muslim community. Muslims as a whole must not be judged by the actions of these criminals, who abuse Islam to recruit innocent youngsters to their cause.
I would like your readers to know that Muslims are not enemies of Jews. The rift is all political and not of their making, nothing to do with true meaning of Islam.
Marcus Dysch states that the controversial responses to the change of use of the Hippodrome in Golders Green is nothing more than blatant Islamophobia. I am astounded that a reporter for the Jewish Chronicle would make such an explosive comment.
There are many of us who live very near the Hippodrome and are more concerned about the volume of traffic than anything else.
Too many people are making very unhelpful throwaway comments — this can only cause much unrest. Surely we should leave the local council to make their decision once they have all the For and Against comments.