Muslim prayer centre should build bridges

“GO back back too (sic) ya own country and take ya mosk (sic) with ya”.

The former register office at Column Lodge, Shrewsbury
The former register office at Column Lodge, Shrewsbury

“If they want 2 “practise” there (sic) religion y not do it in there (sic) own country n not ruin ours.”

“I find muslims intimidating...Walking round with things round there (sic) head and face..just intimidating.”

Bradford, 2001?

No. Sadly, this is Shrewsbury, 2013.

An application to turn a former register office building into a Muslim prayer centre has revealed an ugly underbelly to our picturesque little town.

No sooner was the application revealed than a Facebook page was set up to object to it. The objections were never made clear, but the message board soon became a forum for those wishing to spew their vile, racist views.

“Shrewsbury is a quiet town and does not want muslims from telford wolverhampton and birmingham and all over the u.k coming to spoil it! Our countries (sic) national religion is christianity (sic), that’s the only reason we need not to build one! If they want to pray go back (expletive deleted) home.”

Nice.

It is interesting to note that these people - many of whom claim to be ‘British and proud’ - appear to struggle with the basics of the English language.

One of my favourite (if that’s the right word) comments came on the Shropshire Star website. Naturally, it started with the phrase “I’m not being racist, but...”

It went on: “There is no Muslim community here and the ones that are here go to Birmingham to worship...”

Sorry? There is NO Muslim community in Shrewsbury. But the ones that are here...

Eh?

And given that Muslims observe five formal prayers each day, that’s putting a heck of a lot of pressure on their West Midlands Travel Card.

The facts are these: Shropshire Council wanted rid of the building, which has a history of a place of worship. The Shropshire Bangladesh Welfare Society wanted it and paid the asking price.

I wonder how many of the objectors to the centre were even aware there was a Shropshire Bangladesh Welfare Society? I’d wager none. So what makes any of them think a group which has never even crossed their radar suddenly poses a threat to their very existence?

Ignorance.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Fortunately, it seems Shrewsbury also has a vocal majority. There is also a pro-prayer centre Facebook page. And it has more members than the other one. The comments are calm, considered and, for the most part, have the words spelled correctly.

This application will not succeed or fall on the views of the racists. It will be considered on planning matters alone. The place used to be a register office. It has been a busy place. There is no reason at all that I can see that it shouldn’t be used for a centre which will only have around 50 people at peak times.

One can only hope that if it is approved, as well as a new community centre it builds a few bridges.

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Comments for: "Muslim prayer centre should build bridges"

Maggie May

In my opinion, comments like the above are born out of fear, frustration and ignorance. However, I have found, in my experience, that ethnic groups do not help themselves by not being willing to integrate into the community. All people are tribal by nature, like attracts like, and it is far too easy for groups to become ghettoised. I worked in the NHS in Sheffield and trying to persuade members of ethnic communities to seek help, say for ante-natal issues, was like trying to knit spaggetti. I do hope that this new venture in Shrewsbury will try to build bridges but I have my doubts. Only time will tell.

Unhappy Shropper

I'm glad to see this article; I've been horrified by the reaction from some to this proposal, which has revealed the extent of racism in parts of community in Shrewsbury and changed my perception of the beautiful town I live in for the worse. It's sad to see skinheads on the Column Roundabout holding their 'No Mosque Here' placard alongside a Union Jack, maintaining their ugly delusion that they are entitled to regard themselves as patriotic representatives of the UK, as opposed to the truth that they are ignorant and cowardly thugs.

Aside from the predictable NIMBYish clamour about parking, if any of the racist objections to the prayer centre made sense why is it they are only being put forward by people who are so ignorant and poorly educated their ability to reason is as limited as their ability to spell? It's good that arrests have been made, and that the hateful facebook group was hijacked by anti-racist hackers, but I think there is a deeper question here for Shrewsbury to ponder; Racism comes from ignorance and a lack of awareness and self-respect - and we clearly have plenty of people with a severe deficit of both, people who are the product of an educational failure - what can be done to break the cycle of ignorance and fear that provides a such a fertile environment for racism, violence and hate?

Part of the answer would be to grow up in a more vibrant, multicultural environment, where direct experience of other's beliefs and cultures is often the best antidote to ignorance, and in that sense the Muslim Prayer Centre is a step in the right direction.