Some audience members at an ill-tempered “town hall” meeting, which showered derision on the Jewish press, identified themselves as “racists, bigots and Islamaphobes” in response to an ironic question from one of the organisers.
The meeting, held at the Christian Fellowship premises in Temple Fortune, was in order to protest at proposed plans for turning the Golders Green Hippodrome, a listed building, into a mosque.
But when the Rev Dr Ian Tutton, minister of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Free Church, asked who had organised the meeting — because there were no names on the fliers handed out — he was met with fury by some audience members and had to make it clear that “I am not a journalist”.
One of the organisers told the audience that they were “a grassroots group” who would not identify themselves because of potential “death threats”. She added that new information on the background of the mosque applicants was being gathered by researchers and would be released in the coming weeks, giving a different complexion of who was involved in running the mosque.
The keynote speaker at the event was Gavin Boby, who acknowledged briefly that he was from the Law and Freedom Foundation. Mr Boby described himself as “the mosque buster” and boasted that he had taken on 47 planning applications from mosques “and won 33 of them”.
The softly-spoken Mr Boby urged his audience: “There is nothing fascist about wanting to stand up for the amenities of your area”. He described the proposed advent of a mosque in Golders Green as “the biggest threat to the sense of home for Jews since Cable Street”, and added that “the Koran is more antisemitic than [Hitler’s] Mein Kampf”.
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He said: “If the Jewish population are driven out of Golders Green they probably won’t come back when we make this area safe for them. I don’t care if this is called fascist, people need to know the truth”.
Some members of the audience were residents who live near the Golders Green Hippodrome and have valid concerns. One woman told the JN after the meeting that she had been unable to leave her home to take her daughter to the doctor because her drive had been blocked by cars of people attending the mosque. But she said she was unhappy about some of the views expressed in the meeting.
By no means all the audience were Jewish but most appeared to be middle-aged and elderly Jews from the borough of Barnet. They were urged to lobby Barnet Council against the mosque, whose organisers, it was claimed, were already breaching planning law by running services in the Hippodrome when regulations demanded it should also offer a public schedule of entertainment.
Mr Boby said that a group of Jewish investors, who had sought planning permission in 2005 in order to turn the Hippodrome into a synagogue, had been turned down because they were unable to comply with the entertainment stricture. What applied to the Jewish investors should equally apply to the Muslims, he maintained.
There did not appear to be anyone present from the Board of Deputies, who have attacked the protesters, or the Community Security Trust, which has investigated the group behind the mosque and is understood to be satisfied with its attitude.