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Islamic sect in fight for 'mega-mosque' at Olympic site - London Evening standard

Mira Bar-Hillel, Property Correspondent for the London Evening standard:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23920918-islamic-sect-in-...

Islamic sect in fight for 'mega-mosque' at Olympic site>

Leaders of the Islamic sect Tablighi Jamaat will try to overturn an enforcement order served by Newham council requiring them to leave their West Ham site where they want to create the Abbey Mills Islamic Centre.

Tablighi Jamaat first applied for planning permission in 1999 for a design which was rejected by the council. Two years later it negotiated a five-year permit for a temporary mosque but this ran out in October 2006.

However, the sect has continued to use the site without permission as a place of public worship and is alleged to have built more facilities, also without permission. Newham council finally served an enforcement notice last February, which Tablighi Jamaat appealed against.

Alan Craig, campaign director of opposition group Newham Concern and a former Newham councillor, said: "Tablighi Jamaat have acted unlawfully and irresponsibly. Their track record since they bought the site in 1996 amply demonstrates that they are not concerned to abide by planning regulations. They clearly consider they are above the law."

The appeal, to be heard by a government planning inspector at Newham town hall, is expected to last for at least eight days. Newham Concern is calling two Muslim experts as specialist witnesses to highlight the allegedly fundamentalist and socially harmful nature of the sect. They will criticise the sect's apparent promotion of hard-line separatism and intolerance, and their refusal to open their facilities to women.

"This inquiry is a moment of truth," Mr Craig said. "If the appeal fails, they will have to close down the temporary mosque and their dreams for the mega-mosque will be over."

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