Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow
Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse
Friday 26th July 2013
Dear Ms Ali and Mr Fitzpatrick
Shortly before two o'clock this afternoon I was on the 205 bus as it drove past the East London Mosque/ London Muslim Centre on Whitechapel Road. From my seat on the upper deck I observed that around one hundred yards of the pavement outside the Mosque/ Centre was filled with people praying. I would estimate that there were between two and three hundred participants.
The East London Mosque is, as you know, a vast space, and there are at least half a dozen other mosques within walking distance of it. Moreover, given that some of these mosques appear to be open for long hours on Fridays, it should not be beyond the wit of mosque leaders to devise rota systems so that everybody who wants to pray can be accommodated in one of them. There really is no good reason for mass prayer sessions to spill out onto the public street â€“ except perhaps for putting on ostentatiously provocative displays, which I suspect may be the true purpose here.
After leaving the bus at the next stop, I waved down a passing police van and reported the situation (the police will be able to confirm the truth of my account), and they gave assurances that they would deal with it. I am pleased to say that when I returned about 20 minutes later the large public prayer group had dispersed.
A photograph from The Guardian shows that today's session was by no means a one-off and that Friday prayers have been held on the pavement outside the Mosque/ Centre for at least the past three years:Â http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/sep/24/multiculturism-hope-secularism-religion
Given the tensions in areas like this following the Islamic murder of young British soldier Lee Rigby, I find it inexplicable that Muslim leaders would allow such aggressive takeovers of public spaces, which serve only to taunt and inflame the non-Muslim population.
As you know, some of the immigrant communities of Tower Hamlets make few concessions to British culture and customs (let alone sensitivities). Not only do many of them refrain from speaking English in public (you can walk the entire length of Whitechapel Market on a weekday and hear half a dozen languages, but not a word of English), insist on wearing foreign dress and covering their women top-to-toe, but public institutions aid and abet the cultural segregation by providing dual-language street signs, newspapers, posters, leaflets, etc. â€“ all at public expense â€“ instead ofÂ helping and encouraging the immigrants to learn our language and customs so that they can properly integrate.
This persistent and growing failure of integration in Tower Hamlets and countless other places around Britain, coupled with arrogant public displays that many native British people find repellant and deeply alienating, simply cannot continue if Britain is to have any chance of a harmonious and peaceful future.
Therefore, as a matter of urgency, I would ask that both of you meet with police and mosque leaders with a view to implementing a total ban on these mass public prayer sessions; also, meet with Tower Hamlets Council, local education providers and community groups to see what concrete measures can be taken to address the potentially calamitous failure of social and cultural integration in our borough.
Dr George Whale