Application for New Muslim Prayer Space in London’s Trocadero Faces Opposition by Far-Right27 May 2020
A new proposal to build a Muslim prayer space and community centre has received backlash from mostly far-right activists who decried the construction of a “mega mosque” on one of London’s iconic landmarks. The plans, drawn up by the Aziz Foundation, would see the creation of a prayer space and community centre for Muslims working and living in the West End in the currently-unused basement of London’s Trocadero located between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.
Since the plans were made public by the City of Westminster Council, activists, often belonging to the British far-right, have vehemently criticised the plans, with objections ranging from the centre going against the spirit of the area, or contrary to the architecture of Trocadero, to accusations that it is another step in the “Islamisation” of the UK.
The consultation, which is due to end on Thursday, 28th May, has so far received over 2,300 objections and over 5,100 support. Those looking to voice their opinions can visit the Westminster City Council site where they can register to pick their stance on the matter and leave a comment.
The new prayer space would take 1.5% of the total space of the Trocadero
The proposal for the new prayer space has been put forward by the Aziz Foundation, owned by the CEO of Criterion Capital, Asif Aziz, which manages property portfolio worth £2 Billion across London and the south-east. The foundation itself was set up in 2015 to offer educational grants and scholarships to Muslims.
According to the Foundation, the new prayer space and community centre will take up 1.5% of the Trocadero and will be located in a small basement cinema that has been abandoned since 2006. The Foundation described the space as a prayer space similar to prayer rooms located in large malls such as Selfridges and Westfields, as well as Heathrow Airport. Amenities would include a prayer room with a total capacity of 900 people, although the centre expects demand outside Fridays to be less than 100, with equal spaces allocated to men and women. It will also include a seminar space and a small café.
The Foundation described the space as a way to provide an indispensable service for thousands of Muslim workers, tourists and residents in the area and offering the opportunity to “stop, pause, reflect and pray … to keep life’s balance.”
Supporters said that the current facilities in the area are insufficient for the needs of the community. Supporters feel that the creation of the centre would alleviate the difficulties in access, as well as issues around overcrowding in the existing facilities, especially for disabled worshippers.
Opponents claim that the centre is a “Mega Mosque”
Since the plans were made public, opponents, stoked by far-right media outlets such as Breitbart, have claimed that the plans are to build a “Mega Mosque” in the heart of London.
In an episode that resembles the controversy over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York, in which the planned expansion of an Islamic centre in New York was misrepresented as plans to build an actual mosque on the site of the World Trade Centre, the opponents to the centre in Trocadero have presented the plans as a wholesale reconstruction of Trocadero into a mosque as part of “Islamising” the UK.
“I think it’s a travesty that we should sacrifice a building that was built before our time in such grand detail to Islam, which is not the religion of this country,” said one opponent.
Beyond arguments around the “Islamisation” of the area, some have also voiced concern about the location being “totally incongruous with the nature of the area, which had remained a site of culture and entertainment throughout our history,” arguing that there are other places of worship in the area and that the construction of a “mosque” would change character of the area “beyond recognition.”
Some opponents also argued that the construction would cause tensions with London’s LGBT+ community whose heart is the nearby Soho despite pledges from supporters that they do not wish to incite hatred towards the community or anyone.
Consultations will end 28th May
The Westminster City Council will end its consultation process on 28th May, with a decision expected later this year.
Supporters of the centre have been invited to follow the Steps below:
- Go to the Westminster City Council’s consultation page for the centre or looking up the reference code 20/00726/FULL.
- Register for the site with a valid e-mail address upon which they will receive a verification code.
- Log in to the site and select the option to comment, selecting “Support” as the stance. In the comments, supporters, especially those living or working in the area, to emphasize why a new facility is important to have, especially in light of the current shortfall in space and the lack of spaces for female worshippers.