Derek Taylor
Derek Taylor

An attack on multiculturalism

Golders Green Hippodrome building, which is now an Islamic centre (Jewish News)
Golders Green Hippodrome building, which is now an Islamic centre (Jewish News)

We have a great deal to be proud of in Britain; an incorruptible constitutional monarch, the Mother of Parliaments, a National Health Service, a mostly unarmed police force, and a successful multi-national democracy, to name a few prize winners. Our general approach to life is also summed up in popular phrases; “It’s not cricket”, “It’s a free country” and “Fair play”  Of course, there are oddballs, but they will always be with us.

One of the most successful multi-national communities is to be found in North London and the oddballs here have called themselves the Golders Green Environmental Group. The Barnet council leader, in considering its  the GGEG objections to the proposed Muslim Cultural Centre in the old Hippodrome building, has rightly said “we’re proud of our diverse borough and are conscious of supporting all our communities in every decision we take.”

Quite right too, but what about the Cultural Centre the Muslim community wants to create on the Hippodrome site? Planning permission is still awaited after several years and the excuses for opposing it get more bizarre all the time.

More information is now wanted about “travel, transport, noise and crowd control”.

Well, presumably, the travel arrangements will be the same as we see every Friday at the Mosque at Regents Park. At the end of the service, hundreds of worshippers pour out of the building, heading for the underground. There is nothing like enough parking in the area and no trouble is experienced as the congregation disperses.

What sort of noise causes concern? There is a simply wonderful Hindu Temple in Neasden, of which the borough is rightly proud. It is enormous and a monument to a great religion. Noise isn’t a problem

Then there is crowd control. You might need it at Wembley Stadium if the disgraceful behaviour of some football fans recently is anything to go by. But what would we say if we had crowd control demands for Yom Kippur at Kinloss up the road ?

Another objection is that there is concern about evacuation points. The Hippodrome was built in 1913 as a 3,000 seat music hall. In its long history there is no record of problems with evacuation points

What about parking for the locals? Well, make the local parking restricted to the locals.  And what about the long queues on Fitzjohns Avenue in Hampstead every weekday afternoon when parents collect their children from the schools; utter chaos, so avoid it at that time.

Then again, there are local advantages. One of the problems for the Golders Green shops was the alternative attraction of Brent Cross, with its free parking. When. the Cultural Centre was in operation for a short time, Sainsbury’s was absolutely packed with Muslim women shopping while the men prayed.

I am glad to see Alyth Gardens is supporting the Muslim community. It would help if the Board of Deputies told the Barnet Council that they had no objections either. If the difficulty the Muslim community is having was replicated with a new Synagogue, the communal roof would go off.

What does the Din say? You can sell a synagogue to build a school. You can’t sell a school to build a Synagogue. We are that much in favour of  Cultural Centres and we are also in favour of tolerance. Enough of this nonsense. Grant planning permission.

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book
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