Feb 16 2010
Brick Lane, East London: plans for giant arches in the shape of MUSLIM headscarves or hijabs as part of a cultural trail have been criticized as ‘exclusionary’ not to mention OFFENSIVE TO NON-MUSLIMS.
Tower Hamlets council has been accused of trying to force through a controversial sculpture against the wishes of locals. A plan to mark the entry points to London‘s cosmopolitan Brick Lane with giant arches in the shape of headscarves or hijabs has been condemned as offensive to women and a waste of $3 million of public funds.
The proposed arches, part of a “cultural trail” through the street – immortalised in Monica Ali‘s novel Brick Lane – have been criticised as “misconceived” and “excluding”. Locals have said they risk ghettoising a community that considers itself tolerant and diverse. A number of residents in the east London area claim that Tower Hamlets council risks inflaming racial tension by trying to force the “hijab gates” – as they have become known – through without proper consultation.
One local Muslim woman has told the council that the stainless-steel, illuminated arches “create a stereotypical image of Islam, and endorse the practice of the veil that not all of us are happy with. It is a divisive image and one that in the present climate is highly inappropriate.
At the centre of the trail is a 90-foot high minaret that has been attached to the Brick Lane mosque, a grade II listed building originally built in 1742 as a Huguenot church, then converted into a synagogue and now the Brick Lane jamme masjid [mosque]. Tower Hamlets council says the structure “is not a minaret” but a “large steel art sculpture. (HAH!)
Broadcaster John Nicolson, who lives off Brick Lane, said: “Throughout history numerous groups have passed through here and made it home. Spitalfields is special as it belongs to all of us – atheists, Muslims and Christian, homosexuals and heterosexuals, men and women.They’d never dream of crucifix-inspired gates – nor should they – so why an arch that is both Islamic and representing a specifically conservative form of Islam?”
But Will Palin, secretary of Save Britain’s Heritage, and a local resident, said: “The headscarf motif is undoubtedly faith-specific to Islam and therefore does not represent the breadth and richness of the borough’s history.” UK GUARDIAN
RELATED STORIES: Islamic Britain