A Craigavon, Co. Armagh, councilor who complained that residents would be disturbed by the sound of muezzin wailing from minarets across the fields of north Armagh is denying his objections are racist.
Fred Crowe of the Ulster Unionist Party says his objections are only on planning grounds as the proposed site is “basically bogland” and would place a severe burden on the sewage system. He has been quoted in the past, however, as saying that Jesus was the Muslim faith’s greatest enemy and he had read historical documents stating that Islam’s aim was to wipe out Christianity.
The mosque is planned for a site near the town of Portadown, the heartland of Orangeism.
Crowe’s official reason for opposing planning permission is the strain it would put on the sewage and roads systems. He has also criticized the Muslim community, accusing it of introducing an alien culture that involves noisy chanting and wailing that will disturb the locals.
He describes himself as a committed Christian who has traveled widely in the Islamic world and studied its belief system. He insists his religious views do not affect his judgment on the merits of the mosque.
“I am only acting on behalf of the residents, who are entitled to live in a normal manner without being interrupted,” he said.
A local DUP councilor, Woolsey Smith, said, “A mosque isn’t a typical type of church, but I do believe in freedom of worship, and I wouldn’t like to create a racist-type issue.”
Smith said he learned about Islam from a fundamentalist Protestant website, sermonaudio.com, which is critical of Islam. It contained a prediction by his party leader, and Free Presbyterian Church founder the Rev. Ian Paisley, of “a final conflict that would be fought out between Biblical Christianity and Mohammedanism-Judaism-Romanism.”
The land for a purpose-built mosque was donated by Mohammed Ashraf, an elderly Pakistani who is one of 200 Muslims in the Craigavon area, after a temporary mosque was burned down by vandals.