Dagenham - The Times They Are A Changin'

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (March 2011)


Has anybody seen the film Made in Dagenham? The critics called it ‘a sweet natured film’ with ‘a little too much of the grimness removed’. The Guardian’s Greenslade ended his blog post on the film’s release last year thus,  “the film captured a sense of working class solidarity . . . that is too easily forgotten. Especially in the much-changed place called Dagenham.”

He is right about the ‘much changed’. I have written quite a few times about the other part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Barking, in particular here, here and here. Now those who wish to spread Sharia until the whole world submits to Allah, having secured, or so they believe, substantial portions of the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, much of Ilford south of the Jewish district of Gants Hill and Barking, are moving east into Dagenham, and I can only assume they intend to continue beyond.

Their first citadel is to be The Dagenham Central Masjid (or community centre as the authorities insist in calling it) in Green Lane.

Green Lane forms part of an ancient highway which runs from Ilford through Hornchurch and Upminster towards Horndon. In the Middle Ages these towns were important church foundations but the track predates Christianity in its importance. Today the stretch called Green Lane (the very name indicates its age) is about 3 miles long, leaves Ilford Town centre as the A1083 and runs through the estates built around what were the hamlets of Chadwell Heath and Becontree. At Goodmayes Park the road crosses the boundary between LB Redbridge and LB Barking and Dagenham and the red brick Edwardian Villas give way to the 1930s houses of the famous Becontree estate. This was built as East End overflow and to house the workers of the new Ford Motor Works which was built on the north bank of the River Thames.

It is a busy road; along its length is a lively mix of housing, parades of shops, schools, Goodmayes Park and four remaining pubs. Just into Becontree is Rowallen Parade where the Becontree Heath Islamic Society (Dagenham Central Masjid) has their current premises at No 4, a former print shop. See picture left.

They want bigger premises. Their request to turn No 4 into a ‘one stop shop for community use – with bookshop’ was refused by the council in April 2010 at a time, prior to the general election the following month, when the Labour majority council had an group of opposition councillors, albeit members of the BNP. In September an Inspector of the Government Planning Inspectorate refused their appeal. Among other factors she found that the proposal would affect the vitality of the shopping district and the increased noise and parking problems would be detrimental to the nearby residents. This complaint about parking and noise from worshippers at 3:30 am had been registered with the council; I believe there were others. There are flats above and behind the shops in Rowallen parade. You may be interested to know that the flat above No 4 has four bedrooms and is available to rent through the estate agents at No 5, should you have £1080 per calendar month to spare.

Further down Green Lane at the crossroads with Burnside Road the butcher who owned a corner site which contained his shop and three others decided to retire. Those shops were his traditional English butcher, a traditional English greengrocer, a fishmonger and a florist. The BHIS made an offer to purchase and sought planning permission to demolish one side of the building, build a new extension and change of use into a ‘community centre’ with facilities for Old Age Pensioners and youth, including prayer, education and IT. On their website they were more frank that their objective is to build a mosque for both da’wa and consolidation of Islamic heritage. They have since put a new website on line.

1300 objections were made to the council and the LBBD planning officials recommended that the application be refused for the same reasons given for the earlier application at 4 Rowallen Parade, with the addition of the discovery of antisemitic material on the Society’s website. I had difficulty with that website and never managed to view the offending material before it was taken down in November 2010.

We were therefore horrified to hear that at the planning meeting on 17th January permission for the new mosque (for such it is, whatever the Islamic Society might say) was granted. The most charitable explanation I have heard for the decision is that the committee consisted of new councillors who were ‘inexperienced’. It must be remembered that after the election in May 2010 all opposition to the ruling Labour party on the borough council was removed, to the surprise of many, plus the two Labour MPs were duly re-elected. Others are of the view that amongst the machinations necessary to secure these victories for the Labour party promises had been made, and these now had to be kept or else.

At first it was thought that the Turkish proprietor of a chain of international foodstuff convenience stores had outbid the Islamic Society but he quickly withdrew his bid. The Islamic Society was ecstatically happy to have planning permission and quickly began the fundraising process so that work can be completed by the autumn. They immediately changed their name to Dagenham Central Masjid to avoid confusion with the nearby Dagenham Islamic Welfare Association and Mosque and the Chadwell Heath Education and Cultural Society, aka CHEAC, who are also in the process of buying land for a mosque and are competing for donations. To celebrate the launch of their new Masjid they invited ‘many great Sheikhs’ to a waaz. They included two senior men of the East London Mosque and Sharia court in Whitechapel and Dr Shuaib Hasan whose teaching on the subject of the dominance of Islam, Sharia and the efficacy of Sharia punishments was featured in the Undercover Mosque programme. His views on the position of women under Sharia are here

As our elected representatives are not taking heed of the feelings and wishes of local people protests are being organised. The first took place last month and was attended by members of the EDL and ENA and private individuals. I was elsewhere but I heard that it was peaceful and well supported by local people but marred by the tragic death of a young supporter in an accident at the railway station as he made his way home.

However the Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas insisted that people were ‘appalled’ at the presence of the EDL in the borough and local worthies insist that we have to ‘embrace’ the mosque. Major Schultz of the Salvation Army said "If it was a new pub, this kind of place would cause far more disruption than a place of worship". Below is a scan of the front page of the Barking and Dagenham Post.

I must remind Major Schultz that on the corner diagonally opposite the four traditional English shops is the block of flats named Royal Oak Court which was the site of one of the missing pubs of Green Lane, the Royal Oak. I will confess to getting the Royal Oak, the Beacon in Oxlow Lane Dagenham and the former Matapan pub further down Green Lane, now called the Beacon Tree confused, which has led to me describing the Royal Oak as the original Beacon Tree pub in previous posts. We are losing community pubs frequently.

I went to take a walk round this part of Green Lane last week. I drive through it regularly to visit friends but when one is concentrating on the road and heavy traffic, especially after dark, one does not always take in details of changes. I wrote these two pieces here and here after visits in 2009. It is now nearly a year since I last did any shopping there and I was shocked at the changes in that short time.

We have noticed the amount of snack bars and fast food shops in both Dagenham and Romford which bear the Arabic word for halal about the premises, to reassure the knowing but not to disturb the innocent. Below is a sample of Halal foodsellers in Whalebone Lane (an important road north into Hainault Forest at the junction where Green Lane ends) and south around the Dagenham and Redbridge FC ground and the Eastbrook pub.

In Green Lane the numerous establishments feel no need to be discreet anymore. Below is a selection of the variety of cuisines that can be sampled safely.

And if there was any doubt the seal of the Halal Monitoring Committee UK is Your Seal of Assurance.

 

These are only a selection, by the way; I couldn’t photograph everything. I concentrated on the halal food as I have moral objections to halal (and veils, niqabs and suchlike) which I do not have to sari fabric or Asia specialist travel agents.

Contrast this with the poster inside the now closed butchers shop.

 I hope you can read it under the reflection of the buildings opposite. Finest Suffolk Chickens produced at the Diaper Farm since 1911. I checked Diaper Farm. Their chickens are free range and reared under RSPCA approved conditions, in contrast to cruel and barbaric halal slaughter.

Opposite the site in question the traditional butcher, greengrocer and fishmonger traded against a halal butcher and a halal fish bazaar.

The florist was still trading so I bought some flowers. She has found her own alternative premises which she prefers to the unit offered to her to the back of the halal butchers.

I hope to do business with her at her new shop which she is to share with another of the few remaining long established traders, greetings cards, in due course. At time of writing I do not know where the greengrocer and fishmongers have gone. The only source of English style foodstuffs in Green Lane now is a small branch of the Co-op.

I also attended the Christian bookshop near the African church in what used to be the bingo hall. Their continued presence in Green Lane is also not certain as the lease of their premises is soon due for re-let. The window of Keyhole Kate the locksmith is as lively as ever and the parade retains a Post Office.

I crossed the boundary into LB Redbridge to take a look at the mosque near Goodmayes Station, or the Eman Foundation Community centre, as they describe themselves to the public. The Dagenham Central Mosque at 4 Rowallen Parade is described as a men only mosque with a capacity of 100 men. They say that they want to offer facilities for women, at certain times and for certain events. The Eman Foundation has facilities for women as evidenced by their sign saying Sister’s entrance. You can see one of the sisters with her mahram in the corner of the photograph below.

This is not our English way. Not our London way, or our Essex way. Englishwomen walk freely and equally with our men. Where they go, we go too. Is this what BHIS have in mind for us with their protestations of a ‘Community centre’? A place where shrouded women can only enter one particular corner, or at a certain time? And where the sign may say community, but the atmosphere is definitely ‘keep out’? Because it is not what I want in the town that was my first adult home after I left my parent’s house.

I submit this article ahead of the next EDL demonstration scheduled for 12th March as evidence of the creeping influence of sharia out of London and into suburban Essex.

 

Photographs E Weatherwax February 2011

 

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