Yes, we want a mosque, but we know the problems too
IN the past you have given sympathetic and helpful coverage to efforts by myself and others to provide a purpose-built mosque and Islamic cultural centre in Camden. I am distressed to find, therefore, that I am now under attack by Councillor Theo Blackwel
IN the past you have given sympathetic and helpful coverage to efforts by myself and others to provide a purpose-built mosque and Islamic cultural centre in Camden. I am distressed to find, therefore, that I am now under attack by Councillor Theo Blackwell, deputy leader of the Labour group on Camden council, for allegedly promising to build a mosque and failing to deliver on that promise.
This is a ridiculous suggestion. I, and all other Camden councillors from the Muslim community, support the idea of having a purpose-built mosque and cultural centre, but we know where the difficulties lie.
Labour's Muslim councillors before I was elected in May 2006 were hopeful that a site might be secured on the King's Cross railway lands development site - but the Labour-controlled council did not help them. Instead it granted planning permission without securing any space for the project.
Attention then switched to the Government-owned land at the rear of the British Library (Brill Place). But now we know that, ignoring Camden council's planning brief, Gordon Brown's Labour government is determined to use all of that for a medical research centre. And of course under Labour government property prices in London have gone up and up, making it more and more difficult to find room for community projects of any sort.
Councillor Blackwell now publicly claims that there is neither funding nor site for a purpose-built mosque and seems keen to wash his hands of the project, which the Labour leadership never carried forward anyway. Yet at the same time he does all he can to block the partnership administration's provision of a new secondary school for Camden, and demands a new school south of the Euston Road (which Labour failed to provide in 35 years in power), ignoring the fact that there is no funding or site for that either!
My position is clear. I will continue to do all I can to realise the dream of a purpose-built and Islamic cultural centre in Camden. And as regards schools, I am most keen to see the promised improvement and expansion at South Camden Community School (attended by many children of Muslim families in the south of the borough), but I also welcome and support the partnership administration's continuing efforts to co-operate with Islington and Westminster to provide a new second school south of the Euston Road eventually.
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CLLR FARUQUE ANSARI
Kentish Town Ward