A weekly newspaper has landed an exclusive with Prime Minister David Cameron who has leapt to the defence of a man wanting to build a mosque in his Oxfordshire constituency.
The Cotswold Journal ran a story earlier this month about town councillor Tahirul Hasan’s attempts to convert a shop into a Muslim place of worship in Chipping Norton being thwarted following an anonymous threats from someone opposing the mosque.
Shortly after planning permission was granted in February, the shop’s owner George Wissinter received a sinister phone call threatening to burn the building down if the mosque was built and the councillor’s plans were left in tatters.
He had almost given up hope of finding somewhere but after speaking to Mr Cameron in his Witney constituency surgery, the Prime Minister said he would do all he could to support the venture.
Coun Hasan and other residents then received a scaremongering leaflet urging them not to re-elect Mr Cameron and warned locals about the ‘dangers’ of allowing a mosque to be built in the area.
Entitled “Mosque alert” the leaflet stated: “A mosque or Islamic centre is being built in your area” which is supported by “your local Member of Parliament.” It adds Mr Cameron has “set up a special task force to ensure your children kneel before Allah”.
After the Newsquest-owned paper ran the original story, it published a follow up with a comment from Mr Cameron who after reading a copy of the leaflet, told the Journal: “I condemn the ‘Nationalist Alliance’ for appalling behaviour, scaremongering and seeking to divide our community.
“I support Muslims in Chipping Norton having somewhere to pray. The idea that this means ensuring “your children will kneel before Allah” is ludicrous.
“People in Chippy will see through this sort of nonsense.”
Reporter Freya Lang also interviewed Coun Hasan’s daughter Khudeza who said the leaflet was a concern.
“What gets me is this whole stereotype view by building a mosque, there will be a break in the community,” she said.
“This is not the intention at all. It’s just five times prayer a day, for only a few minutes. It’s just supporting the small Muslim community. People are getting the wrong message.”
News editor Steve Mather said the leaflet hit the term ‘inciting racial hatred’ on the nose and the website stories had received plenty of interest and comments.