Leafy Loughton

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (September 2009)


I still don’t know what to make of this brewing brouhaha in Loughton that I reported on earlier this month here.  This isn't really an update, merely some further information and a few more thoughts.


As I said, I have been following the story of Mr Noor Ramjanally of the pleasant Essex town of Loughton and his allegations of increasing threats for his attempts to spread Islamic worship in town.


I know Loughton, so, some background.


It is a town to the North east of London, just outside the Greater London boundary so it comes under Essex County Council but it is served by London Underground on the Central Line.


The area called Loughton, which includes Buckhurst Hill and some might include Chigwell (if you watched the TV series Birds of a Feather you know exactly where I mean) is leafy, prosperous, middle class, or aspiring to such. In the 1950s an East End overflow housing estate was built next door in Debden. If anybody knows Young and Wilmott’s 1957 work Family and Kinship in East London then Debden was the estate they studied as Greenleigh.


Many of the people who live in Loughton have left places 5-6 miles away like Leyton, Ilford or Newham for what they hope will be a better environment for their families. These families include Jewish, Hindu and Sikh professional and business men and women.

Debden has returned some BNP councilors, one of whom is Pat Richardson. She is usually referred to when it is asserted that the BNP is overcoming its racist roots because she is Jewish.


It started in March when Mr Ramjanally who until then had worshiped at the 
South Woodford Mosque in Mulberry Way South Woodford which is 3 miles away and just into the Greater London area decided to branch out.

He started to hire a room at the Murray Hall (named after Len Murray former General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress who lived nearby) Community centre in Borders Lane for several hours on Friday for Islamic prayer. Leaving aside local assertions that when Murray Hall was opened it was specified that no religious activities take place, I know several churches who rent space where they can, over a pub in Dagenham in one case, for services. Those churches are, however always specific that their church is the people, and the premises not their own. Worship started with 9 men but grew to sometimes as many as 80 worshipers, although the usual number is, apparently 40-50.


Mr Ramjanally however set up a website for what he calls the Loughton Masjid which gives the impression to the casual observer that the Borders Lane address is solely that of a Mosque. This is causing concern that it is an attempt to open a Mosque in Loughton, an area with very few Muslims at the moment, but that more will be attracted to join a Mosque.


Exactly that happened in nearby Leyton and Walthamstow. A small building is taken as an ‘Islamic Association’. Very soon it becomes a Mosque. It grows. It needs more space for a larger congregation, classes, bookshops. They buy the shops next door and the houses behind. But it’s still not big enough. They decide to knock what they have down and build a huge 3 or 4 floor building, with a dome and a minaret to dominate the area. The council and local residents object. Friday prayers spill out into the street and worshippers block the public roads on their knees to prove that more space is needed.


I saw this myself in Leyton and Walthamstow, with the Lea Bridge Road and Queen’s Road Mosques.


All over the country local residents are now objecting to Mosque building and development with greater expertise on planning issues like parking or noise abatement and have been successful in limiting some expansion.


On 1st July Mr Ramjanally reported that he had received a threat that said “We know where your child attends school and what car you drive”.


Threatening someone’s child is reprehensible. No excuses for that.


The next day the front door of his flat was set alight, described in later reports as a firebomb.


The report in the local Epping Forest Guardian is here. Essex Police have confirmed they are investigating both incidents as racially motivated.


The next thing that happened was that the BNP councillors wrote in their Epping Forest Patriot newsletter objecting to any ‘stealth campaign to turn Murray Hall into Murray Mosque’. It wasn’t couched in the most measured of language, well we are talking about the BNP here, but the history of other mosque expansion I described above is accurate.


The importance to Muslims of their sacred space, that land once held by Islam is Islamic forevermore has been explained very thoroughly by the reputable Dr Sookhedeo of the Barnabas Fund here and elsewhere.


The newsletter (copy below)was reported to the police and Loughton Inspector Tom Simons said it was “unhelpful” but did not break the law. The BNP were accused of trying to stir up race hatred, which they denied.

On

Wednesday this week the national Guardian (not the local paper; the Essex Guardian group is completely separate) reported that Mr Ramjanally had been abducted.

Racist attackers abducted a Muslim community leader at knifepoint, bundled him into a car and threatened his life unless he stopped running prayer sessions in a community hall that has been the target of a British National party campaign.

Police have confirmed they are treating the incident as a hate crime and are investigating links with an earlier firebomb attack on the same man's home.
He said he fears for his life after the abduction at knifepoint, which happened at his home in Loughton, Essex, on Monday.

A BNP campaign has been blamed for rising tensions in the area. The party has been leafleting the area warning of "Islamification" which it says flows from the weekly two-hour prayer session, which it claims is a prelude to a mosque being built.

Ramjanally said he was abducted from his home in daylight by two white men who threatened him with a knife, bundled him into a car then drove him into woodland. They demanded he stop organising the Friday prayer sessions at Murray hall community centre. He said the words from his abductors matched the BNP propaganda opposing the Muslim prayers. The same demand was contained in hate mail he received last month threatening his wife and child, he said.

Councillor Pat Richardson, leader of the BNP group on the local council, said her party was not behind the attacks on Ramjanally. "Firebombing is not a British method. A brick through the window is a British method, but firebombing is not a way of showing displeasure," she said.
 
I have heard it said around Essex that Mrs Richardson is several sandwiches short of a picnic – that remark seems to confirm the validity of that opinion. What a barking mad and irresponsible thing to say.
 
Ramjanally said: "I believe the BNP campaign has inspired the violence."
He said he was snatched at around 12.15pm and feared he would be murdered during his ordeal. "I was at home and the door bell rang. I opened the door and they grabbed my wrists, pulling me out by force," he said. He said in the Daily Mail that he thought they were council workmen come to mend his shed.

"It was two white men. They put a knife upon my stomach, and said do what you're told or you'll get hurt." He said he was then bundled into the boot of a 4 x 4 vehicle, with one of the men holding a knife to his chest.

Ramjanally said he was driven for 10 minutes to nearby Epping Forest, walked around, and then threatened: "They said 'We don't want your Islamic group in Loughton.' I was scared, I feared for my life. I was in a forest, a knife was held against me, how would you feel? They said, 'If you don't stop, we'll come back.'"

The attackers then left Ramjanally alone in the woods.
 
He then told the London Evening Standard
 
 . . . one said, Do it here'. I thought that my life was over.”

He added: “They walked with me deep into the forest and said: We don't want the Islamic group in Loughton. If you don't stop, we'll come back'. Then they disappeared.

“The men did not say anything about the BNP or who they were. But it is only the BNP who want my Islamic group out of Loughton. I believe the BNP campaign has inspired the violence.”
 
Elsewhere it was reported that he borrowed a mobile phone from a passing dogwalker to phone the police. I know Epping Forest well. Nowhere is it very deep and in daylight is well frequented by dog walkers, school students on field trips (although maybe not  during August school holidays) horseriders and the like. At night time however there have been numerous criminal assaults there over the years.
 
She (Pat Richardson) was sceptical of Ramjanally's claims of a terror campaign. "I told the police we want to object that fingers were being pointed in our direction," she said.

She also denied that BNP members were behind any violence. She believes that the weekly Muslim prayer meeting is a prelude to an attempt to encourage more Muslims to move into the area, and thus to vote out the BNP. "I was wondering whether it was a ploy to attract more Muslims to the area to try and vote out the BNP councillors," she said.
 
I didn’t doubt the threatening letter but I am not the only person ever so slightly unconvinced by his abduction claims. Many of the comments on the newsreports share my feeling that his story does not quite add up. Comments have now been removed from some of the Epping Forest Guardian reports. The national Guardian has taken his claim completely at face value and has engaged their favourite commentator on matters Islamic, Inayat Bungawala to write a second piece on this evidence of Islamophobia.

Interestingly the local radio station reports the incident with inverted commas round the word abducted. Heart FM - Community leader 'abducted'

This is Ramjanally being interviewed by the BBC.
And this is his interview as part of the report by Islam Channel News.
Correction - that was his interview. After his arrest on Thursday 3 Sept access to this video was made private, as one of our readers alerted me.


For the BBC he produces the BNP 'Patriot'  newsletter like a magician producing a rabbit out of a hat. A little too pat, in my opinion.

IslamNews cut to it for the benefit of the viewer. They also interviewed a BNP spokesman. The IslamNews presenter seems to be of the opinion that the reluctance of the White Working Class inhabitants of Loughton to embrace the idea of more Muslim immigration and/or a Mosque in Loughton is mere paranoia. He said that if more Muslims move into the area they will be able to vote the BNP councillors out.

I will let you make up your minds about his story and demeanour on camera and we
shall see what the police investigation comes up with. My personal view is that new mosques should be countered, but through the use of planning regulations and lobbying of councillors and MPs.
This is a small update. Over the August Bank Holiday weekend it was Debden Day, with an afternoon of events in Debden Broadway, things like children's entertainers, local musicians playing, and a chance for local councillors to mix with their constituents. The BNP claim to have received many signatures to their petition about the use of the hall (I don't know how it was worded) despite the loudspeaker anouncments from the organisors and councillors of other parties asking people to ignore the BNP.
 
Returning to the website of the Loughton masjid I had a look at several of the pages. The website was removed over the bank holiday weekend; I don't know why.

Clicking on the button marked ‘services’ I expected to find the times of Friday prayer. What I actually found was this.

In the name of Allah the most merciful and grateful
Self Defence Classes

 

KRAV MAGA is being used by many Police Forces in another part of the World.  The good thing is that you dont have to be muscular or big to be good.  Its a meant to be something that anyone can use in any situation where they are under attack.
 
For more infor please contact Noor through the form.  Course will start very shortly.
 
“In another part of the world”? As you may well know the self defence art Krav maga was developed during the defence of the Budapest ghetto in the 1930s. The founder survived the war and taught it in Israel in 1948 to the unit that became the IDF. It is popular with Mossad, the IDF and the SAS. Sounds just the job Mr Ranjanally– where are you planning to hold the classes and who have you engaged to teach them?
UPDATE - Thursday 3 September.
As mentioned by Ms Rolt in her comment Noor Ramjanally is currently under arrest and being questioned at Harlow Police Station on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
He was charged with that offence on Friday 4th September and bailed to Harlow Magistrates Court later this month.
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