Time will tell if the support for the Muslim community in Hastings brings about an end to bigotry

The vigil at Hastings mosque. SUS-190322-153056001
The vigil at Hastings mosque. SUS-190322-153056001

From: Dr Tariq Yusuf Rajbee, Pett Road, Hastings

Last month in front of Mercatoria Mosque St Leonards, the road was full of sincere members of the host community. A placard reading “Our Mosque” was a valuable proof of their concern.

Having lived at Hastings for almost 46 years, I started thinking how a massacre of 50 innocent souls has generated such a great wave of sympathy. It was a complete contrast to the 1980s in the public expression of hostility to the Muslim community on their first application for a change of use of this former C of E Primary School.

Then Martin Rapley, a reputable structural surveyor, had reported that East Sussex County Council had kept that dysfunctional building vacant for 11 years for safety reasons.

The building was eventually bought by local Muslims to establish a Mosque.

During the council’s planning meeting a prominent councillor suggested that Muslims take over, the then dilapidated, St Mary in the Castle upon which cries of “shame, shame!” filled the room.

Now 33 years have passed and both buildings are in use, the difference being that St Mary in the Castle is only occasionally used but the Mercatoria building is used, day and night, by the local Muslim community.

However, five attempts for a planning permission for a new Mosque has been consistently opposed and there was not even a whisper of “shame, shame”.

The Mosque managements have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds hiding the evidence of the precarious state of this building with internal linings of plywood and other band-aid solutions.

In the western minds Muslims can and deserve living with bombed buildings, exposed wires and open drains in their own lands.

A few deaths and injuries don’t carry much weight (as the super power attacking Iraq had proudly claimed that they were not counting Iraqi bodies). It remains to be seen what proportion of this host community will remain supportive if another planning application is submitted for a purpose-built safe and modern Mosque in-keeping with its surroundings.

During the early 70s, a TV advert had shown how grateful a couple were, when a roadside car rescue man took them and their car to the nearest garage. The couple said “he is a very nice man”, “he is a very, very nice man” and “ he is a very, very, very nice man”. That was sufficient publicity for the roadside rescue company.

Now a similar phenomenon is being observed after 50 Muslims were gunned down in two Mosques in Christchurch. New Zealand’s Prime Minister has certainly shown a true expression of a nice human being.

This wave of “being very, very nice” will continue for about two to three weeks until a new headline catches people’s attention. Thousands of people have also joined hands to make Muslims welcome in their midst. Muslims certainly appreciate their gestures and sincere expressions of support.

After the outpouring of kindness last month I am more hopeful of the support of the changed host community.

What is more important is that this is a rare chance of people coming together and putting bigotry to bed.

We can do this in a way that will not be fleeting or temporary but one that is embedded into the heart of the whole community.

Having a new Mosque planning application go through would forever stand as a monument to the Muslim presence at Hastings as their home and for the rest of the community that welcomed them with open arms.