On October 30, the English Defence League’s Facebook page made an unusual request to supporters – to sign and oppose the development of a mosque, self-containing flat and community centre in Bristol. They pleaded:
“Please sign and share. This is a grade 2-listed building in Bristol and holds a great deal of history for the city. Once again, we see another part of English heritage under threat and being forced to make way for yet another mosque. Put a stop to this now.”
Many supporters quickly declared they had signed and shared. As a result, Bristol City Council no longer accepts public comments. Prior to the EDL sharing this information, the development had only received three public objections from Bristol residents.
Since then, the development plans gained nine public comments (all objections) and only two were from Bristol residents. The rest came from Swansea, Warrington, Wiltshire, Birmingham, Manchester (twice) and Dundee. Why people feel the need to object to a building that will not directly affect them merely reflects the reach of the EDL’s latest campaign.
One comment from Birmingham states:
“There lots of places of worship, and centres for people to gather, I believe this space could be used in a much more beneficial way to preserve heritage.”
It is noteworthy that this statement and the EDL’s plea both refer to the ‘heritage’ of the building. In two other public comments, we find variants of the phrases, “there are lots of places of worship” or “there are enough places of worship in Britain”. Others simply list their objections in more simple terms.
However, the most obvious link between the EDL and these objections comes from Magda Csatlos, who claimed to have signed and shared on their wall (see screenshots below). Her objection is predicated on there being too many places of worship, its financial cost and lack of aesthetic appeal. However, this piece of evidence could be coincidental (but unlikely).
Other EDL divisions shared the link with their followers:
On a related note, a special planning meeting will be held in South Woodford to discuss the future of a proposed mosque after it received over 288 objections. An application was submitted in September to demolish the existing mosque and replace it with a new three-storey building comprising of a prayer room, community hall and four residential flats.
In June, a petition opposed to the building of a mosque in Worcester Park received over 3,500 signatures. Moreover, the local council received over 500 objections. Weeks earlier, racist vandals had painted a swastika on the door of the proposed mosque.
For the first time, we have proof that the English Defence League is actively encouraging supporters to target mosques at the proposal stage. However, it is impossible to predict what impact (if any) this will have on the Bristol proposal.
Given the high number of objections to other proposed mosques, an analysis of these figures might help separate the genuine and non-genuine objections. Otherwise, the numbers do not add up. (Evidence is provided through snapshots below).
Thanks to Steven Rose for drafting this article for TELL MAMA and for undertaking the investigative work