Almost 6,000 people have signed a petition against plans to turn the former Golders Green Hippodrome into a mosque, ahead of a protest meeting next week.
The petitioners claim the new Islamic religious centre will cause “disruption”, citing traffic and pollution problems.
Under the banner ‘Golders Green Together’, the organisers say they wish to “restore the charm, harmony and safety of our family neighbourhood”.
They have called on Barnet Council to “approach the management of the centre and oblige them to make the necessary arrangements and changes in order to stop the deleterious impact on the lives of the local residents and their visitors”.
The Grade II-listed building was bought earlier this year for more than £5million by the Centre for Islamic Enlightening. It will house the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Mosque and Islamic Centre, and serve the Shia community.
The petitioners say the extra traffic would make it an “utterly unbearable” situation leading to an “increased risk to the lives and health of local residents”. They add: “Does this [mosque] serve the local community? The Hippodrome, at the epicentre of Golders Green, should be a centre for entertainment for all residents, as Barnet intended it to be.”
A public meeting will be held in Hendon on Monday in fierce opposition to the plans.
Some Jewish News readers have previously expressed disquiet about the idea of a Shia religious centre in an area with a large Jewish population.
One resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “We want a cultural centre for all, not just them.”
Board of Deputies vice president Marie van der Zyl said: “I have spoken to representatives from the new centre and raised the concerns of Jewish residents. I was pleased to hear about the proactive measures the centre is suggesting. We were heartened to hear about their commitment to opposing anti-Semitism.”
Ahmad Alkazemi from the centre said: “We look forward to playing our part in Golders Green’s diverse community, and will be considerate neighbours and sincere friends. With this in mind, we would welcome dialogue with local residents about any concerns they have.”
He added: “We will never tolerate any form of hate speech on our premises, and we stand completely opposed to and will firmly address extremism, anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred.”