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May 7th 1999

Muslim sect extends a hand of peace over mosque plans

Plans by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association to build a mosque in Morden have been surrouded by controversy. But as Paula Jolly reports, objections to the project could by unfounded.

As far as controversial planning applications go the Morden mosque is up there with Heathrow's Terminal Five.
Outraged residents, attacks on the council, public demonstrations and even threats of violence have characterised the whole issue.

But unlike a straightforward objection to noisy aeroplanes passing overhead, opposition to the London Road development by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association runs far deeper.

Arguments have raged since day one of the planning application by the association to build its new headquarters on the former Express Dairies site in Morden, which was approved by Merton Council three years ago.

While many claim their objections are based on traffic, parking and logistical issues there can be no doubt the a very vocal few simply don't want a Muslim Sect headquarters - which will attract a large number of worshippers - on their doorstep.

The situation has been in the public eye at various times since then, not least when the British National Party distributed racist leaflets around the area objecting to the Mosque.

But some feel that they are being left in the dark about what's happening at the site now the dust has settled.

I visited it recently to find out how the building work was progressing, and to seek out the association's thoughts on how its members see them ---- local community. Far from finding a chanting, preaching fundamentalist sect I met a decent bunch of blokes who were massively enthusiastic about their project and served up take-away pepperoni pizzas and Coke for lunch.

As we chatted over the impromptu meal it became clear the association members - who do all its work voluntarily - see it as only a positive thing for the local community.

"It may be preconceived ideas about the sect caused problems, but there are different types of people in every religion." Says Abdul Rashid, a chartered architect and town planner who is in charge of the site.

"We are the only sect in Islam that is internationally linked and established, and we believe we have to practice our faith within the law of country we are in. That is why we are favoured by institutions ----- ."

"We represent the true principle of Islam which is peace. We don't hate anybody - if they don't like us we cannot understand it," he adds.

As we tour around the buildings Mr Rashid and his colleague Nasser Khan tell me work has almost finished on refurbishing the existing Express Dairy building, which will be used, among other ------- community eight years but it didn't fit the criteria for housing, retail or local authority use.

"We paid over £12 million an acre, and we think it will improve the local area. For a start it will create more than 100 jobs".

"We are making a contribution to social education to social education through classes we run and people come from schools to learn about a different culture----

[ The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK:
" was established in 1914;
" currently has its headquarters at the London Mosque in Putney;
" has 13 community centres and 71 branches throughout the UK;
" is entirely financially self-supporting;
" provides financial assistance to local and national charities and humanitarian organisations, such as the Save the Children Fund, British Red Cross, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Refugee Council and Amnesty International; and
" gives money to hospitals, such as St George's in Tooting, Great Ormond Street and Royal Marsden. ]

Baitul Futuh,
181 London Road
Morden, Surrey SM4 5PT,
United Kingdom
Home | Contact us | Webmaster | Credits More information regarding the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community can be found at: www.alislam.org