Exeter Muslim community say peace was at the heart of their decision to withdraw community centre application subject of an offensive campaign
CHOOSING to put a peaceful end to an argument over plans to create a new community centre in Exeter is a Shia Muslim organisation.
Members of the South West Ahlulbayt Centre had an emergency meeting this week following an anonymous campaign against plans to relocate to the vacant John Holt Beds building in Buller Road, St Thomas.
They have decided to put others before themselves and have withdrawn the application.
This week the Echo reported how a leaflet and offensive sticker campaign was being carried out in the city, following plans for a new meeting space in St Thomas.
The planning application was made on behalf of the local Shia Muslim organisation by Mahmood Hameed, a businessman who has lived in Exeter for the last 15 years.
The centre, with around 150 members, has been based at rented premises at the Wonford Community Learning Centre for seven years.
Mr Hameed said: "I met with other members this week and we said it was better to stop this argument, and that maybe we chose a bad area.
"We were planning to do everything in the right way and be a nice neighbour in the community, and have a good connection between our people and the St Thomas area, but people are rejecting us.
"We are honest people, but unfortunately people can't see who our Shia group is.
"I do feel sad as it's not easy to find a place. The building was suitable for everything. On the front of the building is about 10 big windows. If a night time people break those windows because we are there it is not safe, and we would be wary about being there."
The South West Ahlulbayt Centre will continue to meet at Wonford, and may look for suitable premises again in Exeter in the future.
Mr Hameed said: "We've been meeting in Wonford for seven years without any problem. We will stay there rather than continue with the application; It's better to stop.
"In the future, if something is suitable we may try again. If that happens we will contact the police before we get in contact with the estate agent."
Although some people may see it as victory for those who launched and supported the anonymous campaign, Mr Hameed doesn't believe it is.
He said: "We are upset about this decision but these people lose. We will never lose as in the end peaceful people win.
"We are not selfish so don't just think about our side. If we get trouble, reaction or pain to our side, we see it as better than if it was felt by the other side. If people don't want us to come it means we cannot get them to accept us."
In the meantime the police are still continuing their investigation.
A group calling itself the St Thomas Residents Awareness Alliance distributed leaflets to homes in St Thomas last week in response to a planing application to change the vacant John Holt Beds building into a community centre.
Headed "important notice" the leaflet gives information about the plans, but the tone and wording has caused concern because it highlights and underlines the words Shia Muslim three times, and uses the Help for Heroes logo without the charity's permission.
It had no contact for the ‘alliance' and it has been criticised for hiding behind anonymity.
In a separate incident, an offensive sticker was placed at the vacant John Holt Beds building in Buller Road, where the centre is planned, last week. It depicted two headless people and features the words Jihad Zone.
It also included a Labour Party logo but had nothing to do with the party.
Police confirmed they were investigating the sticker as a ‘hate crime'.
The police would like to hear from anyone who has any information in relation to the posters or the stickers. Call 101, quoting crime reference CR/009785/15, email us firstname.lastname@example.org, or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
source : www.abna.ir