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Sunday, 13 December 2009
ROCKET-SHAPED MINARET SPARKS ROW
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Some more detail than was provided by the East London Advertiser on the councils use of money paid for the benefit of the public in Tower Hamlets.
As well as the minaret shaped minaret there are also to be arches at the entrances to Brick Lane shaped like hijabs.
Not everybody is happy with this use of funds. From the Sunday Express.
Council chiefs in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets are using millions of pounds of public money to push through the bizarre scheme in Brick Lane, a symbolic melting pot of immigrant communities for more than 400 years.
The odd looking minaret has just been put up outside London’s most famous mosque, a building whose appearance until now has remained unchanged during previous spells as a Huguenot church, a Methodist chapel and as a Jewish synagogue.
The structure will be joined soon at either end of the street by two arches that have been designed to look like Muslim hijabs.
All three symbols are costing some £2.5million of public money.
They are part of a town hall drive to transform the street, already famous as London’s “curry capital”, into a “Banglatown” cultural trail, a Bangladeshi version of the successful Chinatown in the capital’s West End.
It is intended as a celebration of how successive generations of immigrants have settled in the area, including the Huguenot weavers of the Eighteenth century, and the German Jews and Irish navvies of Victorian and later times.
However, many fear it will be biased overwhelmingly in favour of the street’s latest custodians, the Bangladeshi Muslims who arrived during the last century. (ie during the last 35 years) 
Brick Lane Jamme Masjid mosque, a religious Grade II listed building that more than any other symbolises the changing character of the area.
Built as a Huguenot church in 1743, it was later a Methodist chapel, a synagogue and converted into a mosque in 1976.
Throughout that time its external appearance never changed.
However, last week that tradition was destroyed when workers started to put up a 90ft illuminated, stainless steel minaret on the building’s doorstep.
. . . it is the symbolism of the minaret and the arches that has upset others.
They believe it is disrespectful to Brick Lane’s history, with Clive Bettington, who runs the Jewish East End Celebration Society, going further.
“It shows absolute contempt for other religions,” he said.
“The trail was meant to be a wonderful thing that reflects the ethnic groups who have come to the area. People who come on my tours to respect what used to be a synagogue will be outraged.
“The arches are clearly meant to be Muslim in character and we are now objecting in the strongest possible terms.”
A senior opposition councillor in the area said they were “utterly appalled” by the decisions, adding: “Things like this damage community cohesion.”
While Mr Bettington and several other groups, including Save Britain’s heritage and the Spitalfields Society, are lodging formal protests against the proposed arches, there is also a question mark over the legitimacy of the minaret.
While Tower Hamlets Council granted planning permission for the minaret in September 2004, that authority was given to the mosque itself.
Years later the mosque realised it did not have enough money and persuaded the council to underwrite the £510,000 project with the huge £8m “planning gain” windfall it received from the nearby Spitalfields Market development.
However, the council was unable to say last Friday whether such money, known as “section 106” cash, was permitted to be spent on religious buildings.
To do the repairs to secure Christ Church Spitalfield took a national fundraising effort.
All the people who could answer that question were celebrating their office Christmas lunches, a spokeswoman said last Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile architect David Gallagher who was responsible for designing the minaret and arches defended the project.
He said: “We were briefed to design something that celebrates the demographic changes of the area.
“The arches were not designed to look like hijabs. Huguenot and Jewish women wore headscarves. The arches are just modern curves and they will have symbols on them reflecting the different immigrant communities. Having the Star of David on them is one option we have considered, but no decision has been made yet.”
There was also always a core indigenous population until recently. People like my family. My grandmother and her siblings were born in Gibraltar Walk and 80 years later my great aunt still lived in a flat in Brick Lane when she died. My grandmother never wore a headscarf but I do have a photograph of her, c1917 in a rather splendid feathered hat. The Huguenot's by the way are credited with giving us East Enders our love of colourful gardens and flamboyant clothes.
A Tower Hamlets Council spokeswoman said the minaret was part of the cultural trail and added: “The minaret is very much a cultural symbol providing a strong cultural clue to the area and endorsing our belief that the local Muslim community is now an integral part, not just of Tower Hamlets, but London and further afield.
“The cultural trail has gone through all of the Council's relevant planning and financial due diligence.”
So they do admit that it is a minaret!!!   Land once Islamic is claimed by Islam for all time.

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Posted on 12/13/2009 4:42 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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