Wales politics

Councillor denies 'feeding lie' over mosque to committee

Cllr Ali Ahmed Image copyright Cardiff Council

A Cardiff councillor has been accused of "feeding a planning committee a lie" to prevent plans for a mosque for a Muslim sect being approved.

The council rejected the plans for old offices on Sanatorium Road, Canton, on 15 March over traffic concerns.

Councillor Ali Ahmed said the city had "thousands" of Ahmadi Muslims but there are fewer than 150. He claimed the group could pray at other mosques.

Mr Ahmed said he "never misled anyone" and was unaware of "frictions".

He said he had meant there was thousands of Muslims "generally in Cardiff" and added: "I'm not aware of frictions [between different Muslim groups]. Since the meeting I've become aware of this a little bit. "

But former councillor for Llandaff North, Sue White, claimed Mr Ahmed had deliberately misled the committee: "The committee members were fed a lie that 'thousands' of Muslims could be attending their services when the total Ahmadiyya community in Cardiff numbers only 150."

The group has said it suffers discrimination from other Muslims in Cardiff. Ahmadis have been declared non-Muslim in Pakistan because they do not believe Prophet Muhammad was the final prophet.

When asked if he believed Mr Ahmed had deliberately misled the committee, President of the Cardiff's Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (AMA) Dr Ata ur Rehman Maaz, said: "There is no other conclusion I'm afraid".

Image caption The community meets at a former office on Sanatorium Road in Cardiff to worship

The AMA wants to add a minaret, dome, imam's residence, single-storey community hall and parking to the former offices.

In March 2015, Cardiff council approved a change of use application, to change the offices from a business to a "non-residential institution".

This is the second time the council has refused expansion to the site.

A spokesman for Cardiff council said the application failed to address the increased traffic likely to occur from the development.

But Dr Maaz said traffic would not increase as the group already worshiped there: "It is already a mosque, it's where we meet to pray. It just doesn't look like a mosque with a dome and minaret."

He said average attendance for prayers was 20 to 30 people.

Image copyright @SueWhite2014/Twitter
Image caption Former councillor for Llandaff North, Sue White accused Mr Ahmed of lying to the committee

During the planning committee meeting, Mr Ahmed said to the planning officer: "You said there's only about 144 in Cardiff and I'm a bit concerned. There's thousands of them as far as I know. Can you clarify this? Do you have more information please?"

The planning officer said the supporting information for the application said there was 144 Ahmadis in in the area and they had doctrinal differences to other Muslim faiths which prevented them from sharing or using other mosques.

The committee chair interjected and said they should be discussing "not the religion of those using it but specifically the application as it stands" and Mr Ahmed replied: "At the same time chair, it's something I think I need to know... nothing to do with any religions... [there's] thousands that I know of."

"I support all communities all cultures. As a Muslim myself I don't see no barrier for me to go to any mosque at all," he added.

When the chair interjected again and said: "That is not part of this application," he replied: "There are issues but nothing's stopping me going anywhere at all."

Mr Ahmed said when he said "there are issues" he was referring to the height of the proposed minaret.

He said: "I've never misled anyone at all.

"The officer said there was 144 of them and I said there were thousands of Muslims generally in Cardiff."

And he maintained Ahmadis would be welcome in other mosques: "Any Muslim, Pakistani, Ahmadi, French, you are allowed in any mosque. You come to any mosque you will see multiculturalism."

At the time of the committee meeting Mr Ahmed was Labour councillor for Butetown but on 4 May he was elected to Cathays.

The AMA has appointed a planning consultant and QC to challenge the decision.

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