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King’s Lynn: Islamic centre in the eye of the storm

 

A RIGHT-WING activist says he has launched a campaign against a proposal to turn a former pub into an Islamic community centre.

Stephen Tweed is the West Norfolk organiser of the British Freedom Party and is objecting to the West Norfolk Islamic Association’s plans for the former Queen’s Arms in London Road, Lynn.

West Norfolk Council’s planning committee has been recommended to approve the application at its meeting on Monday.

The association wants to change the use of the pub to create a venue for prayers children’s studies, meetings and social gatherings to support about 80 Muslim families in the area.

Mr Tweed, 56, of Marsh Lane, Gaywood, will be speaking at the planning committee meeting and has been campaigning by talking to the people.

Mr Tweed says the British Freedom Party is not racist and describes it as “centre right”.

He said of the plan: “It is another name for a mosque.

“We do not think the people want it. It will not be of any benefit to the local community as it will be extensively exclusive.”

Mr Tweed says he is objecting over noise and parking.

He says the site has space for 12 cars.

Mr Tweed added: “I would be more happy if they let them go to St Nicholas’ and pray.”

Mr Tweed said he started his campaign a month ago. He joined the political party in October last year and is now local organiser.

The association has eight members in West Norfolk.

The party, which was formed in 2010, by Peter Mullens.

Mr Tweed said: “We are not racist under any circumstances. We are anti-Islam.”

Mr Tweed’s campaign was discussed on the Islamophobia website.

It states: “Tweed also outs himself as one of the individuals whose objections to the Islamic community centre were removed from West Norfolk Council’s website under their policy of vetting comments for racist or inflammatory content.”

The Islamic association has been running for 20 years and meets at five different halls in the town.

President Azzam Gabbair said: “It was realised that there is an increasing need for a dedicated place for the local Muslim community to meet and bind together, but also provide the important role of being able create an area where non-Muslims can learn Islamic values as a cultural resource – to help us integrate in a larger community context.

“The space is also planned to act in a much wider capacity, catering for the needs of the towns people by providing a civic venue for the hosting of meetings and other social activities so called for; a place for multi-faith use to bind and support community cohesion in our widening society.”

Mr Gabbair says Friday will be the central day for use and prayers have been held at the Providence Street community centre for many years. He said a handful of elderly and distant members travel by car.

He said: “Exercising the convenience of a central location is perhaps the main attraction of the Queen’s Arms, not the reverse. Accessibility in this manner remains an important aspect in the functioning of such a venue. It, to me, seems an odd perception to think that those who are concerned with the well-being of the neighbouring primary school and its children would prefer to advocate usage as a public house.

“Being able to bring new life back into the building and invest in the town is a very exciting prospect. It is shameful to see so many of the town’s buildings falling into disrepair, much as the Queen’s Arms has.”

 
 
 

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