Minarets plan proving divisive in Halesowen

8:00am Thursday 3rd July 2014

ANGRY residents living close to a Halesowen mosque have accused Muslim leaders of failing to listen to their objections to plans to build 21ft high minarets and a dome on top of the former Methodist church.

And a neighbour fears they will “bring hatred upon themselves” if they pursue the plans and they are approved by Dudley Council.

The Amhadiyya Muslim Association held an open day at the Baitul Ghafoor Mosque, Long Lane, last Saturday in a bid to quell concerns about the size of the additions.

About 35 neighbours went along to discuss the plans and the association’s local president Dr Masood Majoka said he believed some of the opposition had “softened”.

But he rejected a compromise from Halesowen North UKIP councillor Stuart Henley to scrap plans for the two minarets and just have the dome.

He said: “No mosque is complete without minarets and they are not disproportionate to the size of the building.”

But Cllr Henley warned the association’s determination to press ahead with the planning application could alienate the Muslims from the rest of the community.

He said: “This will ruin some of the good will they have built up over the two years since opening the mosque in 2012.

“People are disappointed they are not listening to them. They will lose support.”

Cllr Henley said minarets – like church spires and bell towers - were relics from ancient times which were redundant in the modern world.

“New churches don’t tend to be built with them and minarets, used to call followers to prayer, are not needed now,” he added.

Resident Tracey Willetts said local people objected because they did not think the minarets and dome “were in keeping” with the area and feared house prices would be adversely affected.

She said: “The open day was a total waste of time. Most of the people who come to the mosque live away from here and they won’t accept our views.

“We are not racist – the work they have put into the mosque is very good. It looks lovely inside and looks a lot better on the outside because they have cleaned it up.

“But we don’t want to look out of our windows at great big minarets.

“They say they are good people and deserve to have what they want, but they don’t think we deserve to have what we want.”

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