For this, Lord Guthrie will be pilloried as an Islamophobe, and for good measure, a racist. But even those who will denounce due diligence as Islamophobia would have a difficult time avoiding the fact that they not only cannot guarantee any of the scenarios Guthrie describes below will not happen, but that jihadist sympathies are so widespread and internally unchallenged in British mosques that their likelihood is an unacceptable risk. Indeed, the report below shows there are already problems with the congregation at the existing mosque.
There is also the symbolic significance of the mosque and its towering minarets, seeming to throw down a gauntlet at the doorstep of Sandhurst, whose name is synonymous with excellence in Britain’s military. Not unlike the Ground Zero mega-mosque, the ostentatious scale and proximity of this structure has all the appearances of a calculated provocation: let us do what we damn well please, or at the very least, we’ll accuse you of wanting to commit crimes against humanity.
“Ex-Army chief’s fears over plan for mosque next to Sandhurst,” by Simon Walters for the Daily Mail, April 10 (thanks to JG):
A former head of the Armed Forces has warned that plans for a mosque overlooking Sandhurst could lead to attacks on the Royal Military Academy.
In a letter, Lord Guthrie says he is worried about the “˜security” of the two 100ft minarets which will tower over the mosque, 300 yards from the Sandhurst parade ground.
And he is unconvinced by promises from the mosque leaders that
it will not fall into the hands of extremists who support a “˜doctrine of hate”.
The letter by Lord Guthrie — who was Chief of the Defence Staff under Tony Blair — was written to the planning inspector chairing an inquiry into the proposed mosque.
The Mail on Sunday, which has obtained the letter, understands that it reflects fears among senior military figures that the minarets could be used by snipers or other terrorists.
Supporters of the mosque say the claim is irresponsible and untrue.
A listed Victorian school building is set to be demolished to make way for the Â£3 million building. More than 6,500 people have signed a petition to oppose it.
Hundreds of newly commissioned Army officers take to Sandhurst’s parade ground each year for the academy”s passing-out ceremony.
The event attracts senior members of the Royal Family, including the Queen, who was there when her grandson Prince Harry was commissioned in 2006.
British security forces would have to sweep and remain in the minarets for official events. Muslim groups would be quick to spin that as an “occupation,” bigotry, profiling, humiliation, and so forth.
Lord Guthrie writes: “˜As a former Sandhurst cadet I must express my grave concern about the wisdom of allowing such a structure to proceed.” He refers to “˜specific security concern about access to the proposed minarets” and warns of the danger of the mosque ceasing to be run by “˜responsible individuals”, adding: “˜As has happened in many houses of worship, the nature of mosque management can change over time as moderates are replaced by more extreme elements.” He says that there would need to be “˜guarantees that the mosque and the worshippers would not advocate a doctrine of hate against our Armed Forces or our country”.
He adds: “˜Past experience suggests that to give such assurances about the nature of the doctrines preached there would be very difficult, if not impossible.
“˜For this reason, common sense alone suggests that planning permission should be refused.”
The row over the mosque first flared up last year after the Surrey Bengali Welfare Association requested permission to demolish the disused school they have been using since 1996. In its place, they proposed the new development.
The council rejected the plan, but the mosque supporters took the issue to the public inquiry.
Locals who oppose the project have complained that they feel intimidated by “˜extremist” elements within the mosque. And the former chairman of the mosque, Luth Ful Karim, is said to have requested police protection after falling out with more hardline worshippers.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that Mr Karim is one of 11 worshippers who last year referred the Bengali Welfare Association to the Charity Commission because of the activities of hardliners. The commission has declined to give a ruling, saying it is an “˜internal matter” for the association.
A report in 2007 by the Policy Exchange think tank found literature at the existing mosque which advocated Sharia law, polygamy and the repression of women.
The local MP, Education Secretary Michael Gove, has called on mosque supporters to withdraw their plans, saying they were threatening the area’s “˜good community relations”.