The Centre for Islamic Enlightening, a Shia Muslim organization, bought the Grade II (meaning second tier of historical importance) Golders Green Hippodrome building and intends to use it as a mosque and community center. Most recently the hippodrome was used as an evangelical church.
Residents of Golders Green, a London neighbourhood with a large Jewish presence, have voiced opposition to the mosque. An online petition against the building’s repurposing received more than 5,000 signatures.
Some of the objections have focused on the possibility of traffic and parking problems but others are directly Islamophobic. One resident wrote, “This is going to force the Jewish population to run away, and make this beautiful neighbourhood too crowded with loads of burkas.”
Another person suggested that placing a Muslim institution in Golders Green would lead to anti-Jewish terrorism and violence and attract “undesirables” to the area.
A Reform rabbi in Golders Green, Mark Goldsmith, said that the Islamophobic comments were “threatening and misleading.”
Ahmed al-Kazemi, spokesperson for the Centre for Islamic Enlightening, said, “There might be people who don’t like us, but we don’t feel threatened. I have lived in Golders Green for 15 years, I have a Jewish neighbour and a Christian neighbour, and they are my brothers. I would invite people who don’t know us, and maybe have said something nasty about us, to come and meet us, and have a cup of tea or share a meal.”