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Golders Green Hippodrome: Campaign against Islamic Centre 'is divisive' say faith leaders

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 November 2019

The Golders Green Hippodrome Picture: Harry Taylor

The Golders Green Hippodrome Picture: Harry Taylor

Archant

Community leaders have hit out at a "divisive" poster campaign against the Islamic group who own the Golders Green Hippodrome.

In 2017, when the building was bought by the Markaz El Tathgheef El Eslami group (MTE) and an application to change its use was made, more than 4,000 people signed a petition against it.

The application was subsequently dropped, but Barnet Council began enforcement proceedings to force MTE to cease the use of the centre pending "formal approval". This has been appealed, and will be decided by a full planning inquiry.

With public submissions to the inquiry due by November 13, tensions have risen again in recent weeks with a revived web campaign and anonymous posters alleging MTE is a "mega mosque", a claim which has been denied.

Esmond Rosen, co-chair of the Barnet Multi-faith forum told the Ham&High the campaign against MTE was "very disturbing".

"It is the use of language, and the rhetoric," he said. "It's not totally racist in terms of the language, but it's the intention to divide the community. It's the fear - this idea of it being a 'mega-mosque'."

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Esmond said he had worked with members of MTE, who were "great". He said: "They give blood, they work with Mitzvah Day. Now, they are very very alarmed."

Laura Marks OBE, Mitzvah Day's founder added: "With any sort or development, people will be upset. It's important to acknowledge that there are real issues around the traffic, but with a building that's got 3,000 seats, any use of it is going to bring people.

"It's a shame because this could be really positive."

Both Esmond and Laura blamed the objections on opposition to change. Esmond said: "They are scared of things in society and want someone to blame."

Laura added: "There's a sense of battening down the hatches, a sense of fear of the other. I would like to see people welcoming newcomers."

This newspaper has not been able to reach MTE for comment.

A Barnet Council spokesperson said the town hall has written on behalf of the planning inspectorate to residents inviting comments.

There will be a full planning inquiry in 2020.

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