London, Asharq Al-Awsat- British sources have asserted to Asharq Al Awsat that officials from the Ministry of Defense are objecting to plans to build a huge mosque to serve the Bengali community because it overlooks the largest military academy in Britain. The sources explained that “the officials are claiming that the new mosque would constitute a security threat to the army officers at the world renowned Sandhurst Academy because the dome of the mosque and its two minarets that will be constructed to a height of 100ft will overlook the Sandhurst parade ground”. Surrey County is scheduled to make a final decision on licensing the building of the mosque next month.
A British Defense Ministry spokesman told Asharq Al-Awsat “The whole issue is up to the local council. However, we expressed concern about the tallest parts of the mosque’s exterior, like the minaret. We do not object to the construction of the mosque in this location but we object to the construction of such a big and tall building that will overlook parts of Sandhurst Academy”. He pointed out that a review of the blueprints show that only maintenance personnel are allowed to access the two towers of the minaret”. Other sources close to the British Ministry of Defense told Asharq Al-Awsat “Security experts have cautioned that the mosque may turn into a place that attracts fundamentalists if the parties concerned approve its construction after it is approved by the local authorities”. Prominent British Army officers have filed an official petition bearing the signatures of 7,000 local residents objecting to the construction of the mosque”. The sources point out that senior members of the British royal family, including the queen, are regular visitors of Sandhurst Academy that graduated Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his two sons Prince William and Prince Harry.
However, Dr Kamal al-Hablawi, former spokesman of the World Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West and founding president of the Islamic League in Britain, said in a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat: The Muslims in Britain should not waste their time in marginal problems. If they have obtained a license to build a mosque they should look for another location distant from the military academy. Al-Hablawi, a researcher specialized in Islamic and strategic studies, added: Those in charge of mosques in Britain should create a good relationship with the residents and communities in their neighborhoods by calling for good deeds, minimizing harmful effects, fighting against social defects, and opening the door to dialogue with neighboring communities rather than clashing with them. He pointed out that building a mosque that begins with a problem and confrontation with the neighbors is not in the interest of the Muslims in this country. It will lead to tension as long as the authorities have not prevented the construction of the mosque in Surrey Heath County.
Asharq Al-Awsat has learned that the final approval about building the new mosque will be made after the municipal council of Surrey Heath meets next month. The Muslims in the area of Surrey have been worshipping at a local Victorian school for the past 14 years but they have decided it is time to have their own place of worship.
Alan Kirkland, who is leading a campaign against building the mosque at this location, said that the objection is being made as a result of questions raised by the local residents about the height of the two minarets that overlook part of the military academy. Abdul Wasay Chowdhury of the Sons of Bengal League said: “We have designed the mosque very carefully. Our aim is to strengthen cohesion among the sons of our community and to bolster the assimilation of the Muslim community in society”. The day before yesterday, the newspaper News of the World cited a security source as saying: “We have some concerns. We have investigated the mosque’s ties with known mosques frequented by fundamentalists in other areas and on some Internet sites. The local police have asked the local municipal council to show them the blueprints of the proposed mosque”. The newspaper reported that Nigel Farage, the local representative in the European Parliament, has said that building the mosque close to Sandhurst poses a serious security threat. The spokesman of the British Ministry of Defense has confirmed that the military academy lodged an official objection to building the mosque for security reasons.