As someone who proudly marched through the city centre last year under the Exeter Together banner, I am deeply saddened by the vile and racist outbursts that accompanied the planning application for a change of use to the old John Holts property.
It seems to me that ill-informed intolerance, and offensive and abusive comments have lead to the withdrawal of the application to use the building as a Muslim Community Centre
There were some problems associated with parking, as outlined in the officer’s report, but I don’t think that was the root cause of many of the comments I saw.
My fear is that this property will now lay vacant for many years to come.
These words from the organisers of last year’s Exeter Together were published in the Express & Echo and sum up my feelings on the matter
We are writing as some of the organisers of Exeter Together, which just over a year ago held a huge march and festival in Exeter in opposition to the march by the racist English Defence League. Then over 1000 people joined with us to celebrate the diversity that we have in Exeter.
We read with sadness that the planning application for a community centre in St Thomas by the Shia Muslim community has been withdrawn following the cowardly attacks on it.
With regard to the planning application we recognise that there were valid concerns about parking from some people. However judging by some of the comments on the Express and Echo Facebook page much of the opposition seems to have been motivated by misunderstandings, or in some cases by prejudice against Muslims.
The application made clear that the centre would have been a resource for ALL the community in St Thomas, not just for Shia Muslims to use.
Other comments and the stickers that were put up on the old John Holt shop seem to suggest that the South West Ahlulbayt Centre applying for the centre would have links to jihadis and the Islamic State (ISIS).
Perhaps these people are unaware (or choosing to ignore) that Shia Muslims have been killed in their thousands by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
We congratulate the Express and Echo on its principled stand against prejudice in our community. We hope that the Shia community will realise that the vast majority of people in Exeter love their city, and welcome the presence of all people, faiths and cultures in this great city of ours.