From our Tilehurst Councillor Ricky Duveen, his speech at the Reading Borough Council Planning Committee, regarding the planning application for the Zainabiya Centre in Tilehurst:

“Firstly, can I say thank you to Julie Williams, the case officer, who ploughed through the consultation responses and wrote the report.

I have met the leaders of the Zainabiya Centre several times, welcoming them to Tilehurst and thanking them for the foodbank which has been up and running for several weeks already. I hope that they can continue to expand their charitable services in the coming months and years. It is because I have been positive in welcoming them to Tilehurst that I have stood down from the Planning Committee for this item so that nobody can accuse me of bias in making a decision on the Planning Application. I have, however, used my right as Ward Councillor to have my say this evening.

It appears that as soon as word got out that a Muslim sect wanted to open a prayer hall in Tilehurst, it attracted the islamophobic rabble rousers from around the country. The distributed leaflets, anonymously,  like this example around Tilehurst, creating the impression that these Muslims were going to build a huge Mosque in the middle of Tilehurst and attract thousands of worshippers to our small village. I know this because I and my colleagues have knocked on hundreds of doors around Tilehurst and spoken to residents about the so-called Mosque. We tried to reassure people that this was a myth and that Sharia Law was not coming to Tilehurst.

It turns out that the brains behind this deceit was the so-called MosqueBuster from Bristol. You can tell what he is about from the images on his website. The image of a bearded Muslim character with a hook instead of his right hand . That and the links to various far right organisations. He and his cronies have descended on Tilehurst  with the intention of stirring up hatred. Not just in sending in hundreds of objections but also organising a demonstration outside the Post Office last Saturday.

This same ‘MosqueBuster’ character is apparently a Planning Lawyer but he omitted to tell his followers that  Planning Applications are made on Planning grounds alone and simply saying no we don’t want it is not a planning ground for refusing permission. The issues of noise and parking can be dealt with by attaching conditions to the Planning Permission. The building itself is a small, former office block hidden behind the Post Office, almost invisible from School Road  so it hardly represents a major new building in the centre of Tilehurst.

What objectors need to ask themselves, away from the theatre of meetings and demonstrations is whether they would feel the same way  if someone had proposed taking over an office building for a church for a new Christian sect. Would they still raise the same objections?. We have seen a number of new churches set up in Reading over the years but none have ever produced the same level of opposition.

The report makes reference to the Equalities Act of 2010. In particular it refers to Section 149 of the Act (page 174 of the report para 6.19) which requires that decisions acknowledge the religious needs and freedoms of users of a facility. This sect of Shia Islam is welcome in Tilehurst and has already started to work in and for the people of Tilehurst. I myself, along with other councillors,  have been to visit the foodbank in operation.

Saturday’s demonstration was organised from outside Tilehurst and attended by many people from far and wide. The clue was in the flyer that preceded the demo. The flyer contained the Postcode for the Post Office. Now most residents of Tilehurst know where the Post Office is in School Road, they would not need a Satnav to find it. Admittedly some were probably also from Tilehurst but we do not need these right-wing rabble rousing islamophobic extremists in our Village. They are not welcome and I trust that members of the Committee will not be swayed by this outburst of hatred in the middle of tolerant Tilehurst.”