Mus­lim cen­tre op­po­nent re­veals BNP mem­ber­ship

PLAN­NING COM­MIT­TEE UNAN­I­MOUS IN VOT­ING THROUGH AP­PLI­CA­TION TO CON­VERT FOR­MER PUB

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by Sam Len­non slen­non@thek­m­group.co.uk

A LEAD­ING ob­jec­tor to a scheme for a new Mus­lim cen­tre has re­vealed him­self as a mem­ber of the Bri­tish Na­tional Party.

Ray Dawkins said the ap­pli­ca­tion was the “creep” of Sharia Law but his hopes of it be­ing re­jected by coun­cil­lors were crushed.

Plan­ning com­mit­tee mem­bers last week voted 11-0 in favour of the scheme for Ash­ford’s for­mer South East­ern Tav­ern in Tor­ring­ton Road.

Mr Dawkins, who lives in Cuckoo Lane, told the meet­ing: “I am be­fore you to­day to voice an ob­jec­tion to this ap­pli­ca­tion as a lo­cal res­i­dent, a Chris­tian and a mem­ber of the Bri­tish Na­tional Party.

“I ob­ject to the des­ig­na­tion of the build­ing in this ap­pli­ca­tion as a meet­ing place/ cul­tural cen­tre.

“This is po­lit­i­cal ter­mi­nol­ogy to hide the truth and al­low the in­sid­i­ous creep of Sharia Law into our Bri­tish So­ci­ety.

“I ask you to re­ject this ap­pli­ca­tion be­cause it has far reach­ing prece­dents and to keep faith with the good re­la­tion­ship of the in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion of the area.”

When he con­tin­ued to make re­marks con­cern­ing Is­lam, plan­ning chair­man Cllr Jane Mar­riott (Con) told him to stick to plan­ning ar­gu­ments.

He went on to say that the reg­u­lar ar­rival of groups of peo­ple to the cen­tre for prayer would cause dis­tur­bance to nearby res­i­dents.

Ap­pli­cant Shafi Khan, of the Ash­ford Asian So­ci­ety, had said that the cen­tre would help steer peo­ple away from rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and stress that Is­lam does not teach ter­ror­ism.

Mr Dawkins said: “As yet we are un­aware that there has been any threat of ter­ror­ism in this area.

“Lo­cal res­i­dents sug­gest a bet­ter use of the premises would be as a home for the el­derly of our com­mu­nity. It is a very plau­si­ble idea wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Mr Dawkins had raised the con­cern that sum­mer prayer times would be as early as 4.30am, caus­ing dis­tur­bance to neigh­bours.

But Mr Khan agreed that could be changed to 8am.

He said train­ing work­shops would be avail­able for po­lice and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and added: “We hope peo­ple will un­der­stand Is­lam bet­ter than what has been por­trayed in the me­dia.”

Cllr Jill Hutchin­son (Con) said: “We are liv­ing in a very dif­fi­cult world at the mo­ment. To un­der­stand an­other be­lief might help us.

“I be­lieve it is some­thing that should be al­lowed.”

Coun­cil leader Cllr Paul Clokie (Con) said that churches were mak­ing sim­i­lar changes – such as St Mary’s in Ash­ford – adding: “There is no rea­son why we should say no.”

A pe­ti­tion against the cen­tre was signed by 155 peo­ple and eight let­ters of ob­jec­tion were sent to the coun­cil.

But plan­ning of­fi­cers rec­om­mended ap­proval, say­ing vis­i­tors to the cen­tre would be no more nu­mer­ous than those vis­it­ing if it was still a pub.

Cllr Allen Wells (Lab) said of the new cen­tre: “The noise will be less than the heavy metal I’ve heard from there.”

See com­ment, page 10

Pic­ture: Gary Browne PD1653962

Ob­jec­tor Ray Dawkins

Pic­ture: Gary Browne PD1633520

An ap­pli­ca­tion to turn the South East­ern Tav­ern into a Mus­lim cen­tre has been ap­proved

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