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Standing up for the right kind of NIMBYism

NIMBYism has reached new heights in David Cameron’s constituency, with plans for a Chipping Norton Mosque up for debate. Muslims from the town and the surrounding area currently convene at the Town Hall on Fridays, but now they are looking for a place to call their own. The gentle Cotswold skyline will not, however, be interrupted by domes and minarets, as empty shop premises have been identified in the centre of town. The landlord is happy, the prospective tenants are happy: just the small matter of a change of use application. And therein lies the problem. So many objections have been received by West Oxfordshire District Council, that the application has been rejected.

It is hard to imagine what could be objectionable about a small group of people worshipping behind closed doors-  until you read the objectors’ Facebook page, succinctly titled Save Chippy From Proposed Mosque. For there it all becomes clear. Within weeks, nay days, of this Mosque ‘being built’ (there is an apparent inability to understand that no-one has suggested actually building anything), Chipping Norton will be radicalised. Entire schools of children will be forced to kneel at the foot of Allah, Janet from the Horticultural Society will be sporting a burkha, and Rotary Club Barry will be strapping explosives to his chest and firing AK47 into the air.

More than 700 people have ‘liked’ this toxic Facebook page, which carries such gems as ‘we need to join forces and not let any more mosques or muslims into our country’ and ‘Mosques are used to promote terrorism… they are willing to marry children to adult pervet/pedophiles (sic) all across the country!!’

In a population of 6,000 – not all of whom will be internet-savvy, 700 people object to a Muslim prayer room? The numbers seem a little out of kilter, but dig deeper and the truth becomes clear. The most active contributors – those posting racist ‘truths’ and images clearly designed to incite hatred – are not from Chipping Norton at all. They are from Coventry, Birmingham, London and even Spain. Their profile pictures show English flags, fields of poppies, and bull-dogs with studded collars, and their (unrestricted) Facebook walls offer a constant stream of ‘inspiring’ English Defence League quotes and images. This is a campaign far bigger than one town.

The backlash from the backlash has been cheering. Within days of the anti-Mosque Facebook page appearing, a counter group sprang up called (somewhat confusingly, if you had not been privvy to the original page) ‘Save Chippy From Views Like This’. With 500 likes – almost exclusively from the town itself – there is hope for Cotswold morals yet.

We live in a country where religion can be practiced freely, whether others agree with the practice or not. I for one have no issue with a Mosque in my town, but religious hatred? Not in my backyard.

 

EDIT: In the piece above, I said that permission for change of use was refused after objections were received, but actually the truth is far worse than that. Permission was granted, but the landlord then received a threatening phone call saying the building would be torched if he went ahead with the plans, so he backed out.

 

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Clare Mackintosh

Written by Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh is a freelance feature-writer, columnist and crime novelist, and a former Police Inspector. Follow her on Twitter @claremackint0sh or read her blog at www.claremackintosh.com/blog

  • Yasin Qadir

    Sad that the whole topic of a prayer room got highjacked by people with a vested interest… maybe its now time for the town council to set up a meeting in the town hall for people of the town to speak openly and frankly on the topic without all the outside interference (shocked to hear that some Spanish folks have such strong views on the goings on Chipping Norton!)

  • Jimmy

    I think what was believed was that a purpose built building was going through planning, This is not true.
    But this got peoples backs up as there were empty buildings in the town.
    I personally am Agmosquetic as in I agree that people should have rights to worship whatever they choose but also don’t believe that Religion is a reason to break rules and regs.
    As it is the people of Chipping Norton are generally very nice and this article is welcomed as it actually shows that a lot of the bad views are not from Chippy itself.

  • Linda

    Well put! Just a small point of fact though…. planning permission wasn’t refused. The planning application (12/1845/P/FP) for change of use of a small building in Hitchman’s Mews to a place of worship was granted on 8 February 2013.

    What happened next appeared to be that the land lord claimed to have received intimidating phone calls and withdrew his offer of a tenancy. The planning permission is still valid. The matter went quiet until far right racist groups picked up that the group had approached their local MP David Cameron for support in their search for premises to use as a prayer room. Early racist posts were, interestingly, anti Cameron.

  • http://www.morethanjustamother.com/ Clare (MTJAM)

    Thanks for correcting me, Linda, and I apologise for the inaccuracy. It’s good to hear that WODC weren’t swayed by the objections, but how awful that the landlord was subjected to harassment.

  • Save Chippy From Proposed Mosq

    Oh look its save chippy from proposed mosque.. I would like to point out in your article where you are saying that comments are being made by people in spain.. Firstly the statistics of my page tell me that the majority of likes are chippy people, and quite a few are surrounding areas! Secondly i have only got two members from Spain on my page! i had a nose about on the other page who are against my page (really don’t care) and I did see that quite a few members where from over seas, even some of the commenters! So Clare Mackintosh, before you sit there behind your keyboard and make up these accusations I would highly recommend that you do your homework first. So as you say in your article “dig a bit deeper” for the proper information! and another thing that I would like to ask, how are you so sure that the people commenting don’t originate from chipping norton or live here? have you personally asked them? If its someones home town surely they are allowed to comment right? And a lot of people lock their Facebook pages so you cant see any personal information not even where they live! So theoretically the information you have provided in your Article is not 100% accurate. I feel you only wrote what the other side wanted to hear.

    And another thing I would like to point out (again dig deeper) I have not said that an actual building is being built. In fact no one knows whether or not they are still proposing to use the empty building. All that was said by David Cameron is that he will do his best to make sure that Hassan will have his own prayer room/mosque what ever you want to call it. So there for, again, you are making accusations about my page that are not true! I have said numerous of times on my page that we are unsure whether or not they are still going ahead with the conversion of a building or not. Again, dig deeper.

    So the next time you want to rip off a page and just claim that what you have written is true, then I suggest you first work your way from the bottom of the page to the top!

    But in any case. That is me done. I bid you a good weekend….

    P.S sorry, I ran out of space so couldn’t complete the Mosque word.

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