Did Sadiq Khan Open 460 Mosques and Close 500 Churches in London?
On Tuesday, 3 September, a "violent protest" was held outside the Indian High Commission in London. Windows of the building were smashed by protesters from the 'Kashmir Freedom March.' London Mayor Sadiq Khan took to Twitter to condemn the incident, calling it "unacceptable violence".
One of the reactions to Sadiq's tweet was from a Twitter user called ‘BharatVasi The Indian’, who posted a graphic depicting Mayor Khan superimposed on a background image of Muslim people praying and a mosque in London.
The graphic, titled ‘Londonistan’, compiled three statistics purportedly related to Muslims in London. The implication of the graphic is that Khan is responsible for building 460 new mosques in London, that he has had 500 churches closed in London. The graphic also claimed that there are 85 Sharia "councils" in England and Wales, concentrated in London.
What We Found Out
CLAIM 1: 460 Mosques in London
According to the graphic, there are 460 mosques in London, with the implication that all of them were set up by Khan. The statistic is attributed to “Muslims in Britain”.
On delving deeper into this statistic, we found that the number was derived from a blog run by a group called "Muslims in Britain". The blog is dedicated to cataloging British mosques.
By going through the blog, The Quint found that it had catalogued places of worship in the UK extensively. According to their findings, as of 16 September 2017, there were 2,511 places of worship in UK, out of which only 1,825 were actual masjids. Included in the 2,511 number were hired halls, general use prayer rooms, temporary premises etc.
Keeping this fact in mind, we looked at one of their lists, which detailed 477 mosques in London.
This brings down the number of mosques in London by at least 35, to well below 460.
Noticeably, the list did not mention that these were all new mosques. Neither did it provide the dates of when they were established.
The Quint found that there were mosques — such as the Finsbury Mosque and the Leytonstone Mosque — in the list that have been in existence since 1990s and 1976 respectively. These cases would naturally exclude the assumption that Mayor Khan had a hand in their establishment, since he only entered office in 2016.
CLAIM 2: 500 Churches Closed in London
According to fact-checking website Snopes, the claim that 500 churches have been closed in London originates from a April 2017 post by right-wing think-tank Gatestone Institute, which claimed that "British multiculturalists were feeding Islamic fundamentalism" and that the new ‘Londonistan’ was built on the "sad ruins of English Christianity".
It went on to state that since 2001, 500 London churches had been turned into private homes.
However, this number was an example of cherry-picking by Gatestone and was taken from a Wall Street Journal report from 2012, which spoke about a trend in Britain, where churches were converted into private homes. The report itself quoted findings by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
“Although it’s still relatively rare in the US, the adaptive reuse of churches has become a popular practice in other countries, like the UK. In 2006, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that since 2001, about 500 churches in London alone had been converted into homes. In other countries, such as Germany and Russia, people still regard the concept of living in a church as disrespectful, says Bart Kellerhuis of Utrecht-based firm Zecc Architects, which has done several church-to-home conversions in the Netherlands,” said the report by Wall Street Journal.
However, as Snopes points out, the Wall Street Journal article did not mention when exactly these churches were closed and also did not mention any churches that had been closed since 2001 but had not been converted into houses.
Moreover, Gatestone's post excluded any mention of churches that opened in London. According to Dr Peter Brierley, a British religious statistician and author of the report 'UK Church Statistics', 700 new churches were opened in London between 2005 and 2012, leading to an increase in the total number of churches.
CLAIM 3: 85 Sharia Councils in England & Wales
The graphic also claims that there are 85 Sharia "councils" or courts in England and Wales, which it attributes to the Home Office.
What the graphic is possibly referring to is data from an independent review into the application of Sharia law that was presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in February 2018.
A 2009 study by a think-tank called Civitas identified 85 Sharia councils, but included online forums, which the graphic does not mention. Moreover, Civitas admitted that the number was indeterminate.
Therefore, this claim too is false and misleading.
(With inputs from Snopes.)
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