Mosque plans scrapped after ‘arson’ threat
The dream of west Oxfordshire’s Muslim community to open a small mosque in Chipping Norton has been dashed after an anonymous caller implied they would burn the building down.
A planning application to convert a small retail unit in West Street into a prayer room was approved by West Oxfordshire District Council last week.
But just days later, the landlord of the building received a phone call in which he said the caller implied the mosque would be burned down if it opened.
Landlord George Wissinger, who owns Georgian House Antiques store in West Street, had agreed to rent out the ground floor of the retail unit to the Muslim community but now said he is not prepared to risk the safety of tenants who occupy a flat on the first floor of the building
Mr Wissinger, 80 said: “I had one phone call. They just said ‘if you go ahead with the mosque it could get very hot’.
“What does it mean? You tell me. You don’t have to be too clever to know what that means.
“I didn’t buy a building just so idiots can burn it down.”
He added: “I expected something like this would happen but I’ve got a couple living in the upstairs flat and I can’t risk that.”
Mr Wissinger said he had been keen to rent out the unit as it had been empty for eight months.
Chipping Norton Town councillor Tahirul Hasan has campaigned for many years for a prayer room in the town to accommodate west Oxfordshire’s growing Muslim community.
He said the threat was “unbelievable” but said the community – which currently meets in the town hall for Friday prayers – would not give up on its campaign to find a permanent home.
“I feel absolutely shocked,” he said. “It’s terrible news after all our hard work, one phone call has changed the whole thing. It’s not even a mosque it’s just a prayer room where we are going to pray for ten minutes.”
Chipping Norton police officers confirmed they are investigating the incident.
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