Mega mosque myths

“Jesus loves you… Then again, he loves everybody.” That’s a slogan on a T-shirt from Larknews.com, a Christian comedy website (who also advertise Rapture Insurance “in case you get left behind”). The Jesus slogan is funny as well as being theologically correct (how often is that true?) and perfectly expresses my feelings towards many people, particularly, at times, my Christian brothers and sisters.

Last week was one of those times, as people claiming to speak for Christianity spouted so much intolerance, paranoia and ignorance I could have sworn I was confining all my reading to The Daily Mail. I wasn’t though. The issue of the legendary ‘mega-mosque’, planned for Abbey Mills in Newham, and much beloved of hysterical chain-email petitioners, was all over the news, like white on rice. Or a Tory shadow cabinet. Or a BNP rally. What I’m trying to say is that the issue was as prevalent in the news as the colour white is in something really really white.

Government officials last week said that the mosque could “raise tensions” and papers suggested that Tablighi Jamaat (the sect planning to build it) is pretty close to being a terrorist group. Forgive me if this is obvious, but it seems pretty clear that the proposed mosque is not raising tensions. Morons are. For instance, the mysterious “Jill”, writer of a blog called English Rose, who apparently started the petition. Jill’s website features, along with several links to BNP support pages, many charming opinions, like: ‘it is not English people who are vicious but the very community that you are protecting,’ The ‘community’ she refers to is Muslims. They can’t be English, apparently.

Now, please believe me: I would love it if every person in England was a Christian. I would rejoice in their salvation. But I do not hate or fear those who are not and cannot believe Christ would either. And since I am sure many people have signed the petition and supported its calls not because they are hateful or stupid but because they have been misinformed, let’s look at the facts.

Tablighi Jamaat, while certainly an Islamic missionary sect, is a legal organisation in the UK. Their supposed association with terrorists is based on the fact that some terrorists have visited a few of their mosques. Since another theme in the media attacks last week was that Tablighi Jamaat owns a staggering number in this country, that is hardly surprising. Other Islamists are not quite as convinced of the Jamaat’s jihadi credentials though. IslamicAcademy.org criticised the Jamaat because it’s approach to integrating with western states ‘meets the complete approval of the enemies of Islam, since there is no mention anywhere of anything which might even slightly inconvenience a Kaafir [unbelieving] government.’ They sound really awful, don’t they?

And while a spokesman for Christian Peoples Alliance (a nice, sane bunch of people if their website is anything to go by) who is also a councillor in Newham is spearheading the campaign to shut plans for the mosque down, Transform Newham, a group of local churches who regularly pray for the area, has released a statement specifically refuting his claims and setting out the real facts about the mosque. Should we be delighted that a large mosque is being built? No, because ultimately they are unlikely to be preaching Jesus. But neither do we have a right to oppose it. We are not living in a Christian country and we have not been for some time. The sooner we realise this; stop moaning and start preaching, loving and witnessing harder than ever before on the level playing field that is the UK, the better for everyone. Perhaps then Muslims will see something in Christianity worth exploring.

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