Leading rabbi condemns ‘threatening and misleading’ claims made over Golders Green mosque

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith said some of the language recalled the hostility Jews faced in the early 20th century


A prominent rabbi has condemned the "threatening and misleading" language used by some opponents of plans for a mosque in a London suburb with a large Jewish population.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, the minister of Golders Green’s Alyth Reform congregation, said some of the claims made about the proposed Islamic centre were untrue and recalled the kind of hostility Jews faced when they first came to the area 90 years ago.

The Grade ll-listed Golders Green Hippodrome was bought earlier this year for £5.25million by the Centre for Islamic Enlightening, which will use it to house the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham mosque and Islamic centre.

It will serve the Shia Muslim community of north-west London.

A petition against the plan posted on Barnet Council’s website has attracted almost 4,000 signatures, and 215 public objections have been lodged against the planning application.

While many are concerned with increased congestion and pollution, some have focused on the risk of cross-communal conflict between the local Jewish community and Muslims using the centre.

Rabbi Goldsmith told the JC that emails and WhatsApp messages – as well as social media posts – have been circulated among residents making claims which are “simply not true”.

He said: “Things have been said about it being the largest mosque in Europe, and that the Shia community is a threat. That language is threatening and misleading.

“I suspect it’s the same sort of thing said about Jews moving to Golders Green in the 1920s. Golders Green is not entirely Jewish. It’s a special place to live in and we all get along together. That’s what London is about.”

Rabbi Goldsmith added that concerns over increased congestion are “fair”, and that it is the responsibility of all religious organisations to ensure worshippers are transported in the “least intensive way”.

In an article for the JC, Laura Marks, the chair and founder of Mitzvah Day, said some of the comments made about the mosque have “sent a shiver down her spine”.

She wrote: “Comments such as ‘we don’t know what they are preaching as it’s all in Arabic’, ‘this will result in violence and terrorism’ and ‘there is a chance of infiltration of bombers’ are Islamophobia plain and simple”.

The Board of Deputies has also objected to the use of the name "Golders Green Together" by a group opposed to the mosque.

In 2015 the Board and other organisations, formed a body of the same name to counter the threat of an extremist right-wing group marching through Golders Green.

Gillian Merron, the Board’s chief executive, has asked the group opposing the mosque to cease using the name “with immediate effect”.

The Board said it was “very concerned” at the tone of some of the comments on Golders Green Together’s Facebook page.

One comment on the public Facebook page read: “Why not just be honest and tell them the real reason why we don’t want a mosque there. Because its (sic) one of the only Jewish areas left in London and we don’t want it polluted and destroyed by a bunch of Jew hating Muslim terrorists.”

Jay Stoll, who was involved in the 2015 campaign, tweeted: “Two years ago I ran a campaign called 'Golders Green Together' to protest neo-Nazis demonstrating in the most populous Jewish area of the UK.

“V disappointed to see the same slogan used to protest planning permission for a mosque. Hardly representative of the campaign we ran.”

The group has been approached for comment.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive