If you want to get a flavour of some of the more hostile responses to the plan to turn the former Golders Green Hippodrome into a mosque – then you need look no further than this report in 5Pillars.
Another respondent, Josephine Bacon, said: “To place a large Muslim institution in the heart of one of London’s only two Jewish communities is a highly dangerous undertaking and one that can only result in violence and terrorism.
Rachelle Marks wrote: “The appearance of burkas [and] veils has changed the area… the traffic is too much and we don’t know what they are preaching as [it is] all in Arabic.”
Ayelet Avroya wrote: “This is going to force the Jewish population to run away and make this beautiful neighbourhood too crowded, with loads of burkas and veils over the weekend which I find scary and changes the fine balance between the residents of this area.”
What 5Pillars doesn’t report is the fact that many Jewish individuals and organisations have robustly countered such responses. Here’s Laura Marks writing in the JC.
Reading some of the comments on various chat groups by those opposed sent a shiver down my spine.
Going through the public forums – not to mention what people are saying in private – and it actually feels even more sinister still. The language being used is simply not right.
I am chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the power of words is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2018. It has never seemed more fitting.
A local Rabbi has also intervened:
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, of the Golders Green Alyth Reform congregation, told the paper the language of the comments was “threatening and misleading”.
He added: “I suspect it’s the same sort of thing said about Jews moving to Golders Green in the 1920s. Golders Green is not entirely Jewish. It’s a special place to live in and we all get along together. That’s what London is about.”
This Jerusalem Post article highlights other mainstream Jewish voices speaking out against bigotry.
Jay Stoll, a Jewish political adviser in the British Parliament, ran a campaign in 2015 under the same title, “Golders Green Together,” to promote diversity ahead of a neo-Nazi protest in the area.
Stoll expressed his disappointment, saying, “Two years ago I ran a campaign called ‘Golders Green Together’ to protest neo-Nazis demonstrating in the most populous Jewish area of the UK. [Very] disappointed to see the same slogan used to protest planning permission for a mosque. Hardly representative of the campaign we ran.”
Marcus Dysch, political editor at the Jewish Chronicle, wrote on Twitter that it was “hard to see [the campaign] as anything other than inexcusable, blatant Islamophobia. An embarrassment to British Jews.”
By focusing only on the most negative responses 5Pillars has, not surprisingly, whipped up bigotry amongst its readers.
Returning to the proposed mosque, this will be used by the Shia community. Here a spokesman comments on the controversy:
Al-Kazemi said he was surprised by the objections, but not upset. “There might be people who don’t like us, but we don’t feel threatened. I have lived in Golders Green for 15 years, I have a Jewish neighbour and a Christian neighbour, and they are my brothers.