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Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition accusing a British local authority of “condoning Islamophobia” after plans for a controversial Islamic education centre were turned down.
The Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO) are also demanding an “urgent enquiry” into the planning process after proposals to convert a former warehouse in Leicester into a Muslim prayer room, education centre and nursery were thrown out amid contentious scenes.
Police were drafted in to keep the peace as a planning meeting debated and ultimately rejected the planning application earlier this month, with 4,545 people now signing the FMO petition directed at Leicester City Council.
Over 5,000 people, including Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, originally objected to the proposals primarily due to the general disturbance and traffic generated by the new development, dubbed a mosque because of its prayer facilities. Others opposed it on the grounds of having an Islamic place of worship in such a heavily-populated Hindu area, close to an existing Hindu temple and church.
Despite uproar over the plans, the petition claims that refusing it has damaged community cohesion in the East Midlands city.
“The whole debate around the proposal brought on surface issues which are extremely concerning for our city which takes pride in its diversity,” it says. “We respect the right to objections for those living in the immediate area and those who are likely to be affected by the new development. However, it’s disappointing to see the list of comments made by many, demonstrating high level of prejudices against the Muslims.”
The petition, on change.org, adds: “Leicester City Council have taken a position to refuse this application and in doing so are condoning Islamophobia and encouraging the anti-Muslim sentiments in the city. This we believe creates division between the communities and will impact the genuine needs of the Muslim Community in the future, who are already facing many challenges in dealing with the hate crimes and discrimination.”
Council planners had recommended the plans were rejected due to the nature of the property and its location which, coupled with its proposed uses, would have caused “significant harm to the residential amenity conditions of nearby residents.”
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