LONDON - British Muslims have widely welcomed the official approval to their plans to turn a former pub in west Norfolk into an Islamic community center, saying it will help Muslims extend bridges in the community.
We are grateful to all the officers and authorities who recommended approval for this, Assam Gabbair, chairman of the West Norfolk Islamic Association (WNIA), told the BBC on Monday, April 30.
WNIA introduced a request to convert Queen's Arms, London Road, King's Lynn, into a centre for prayer, education and events.
But, controversy erupted later when more than 700 objections to the plans were posted on the council's website.
Campaigners against the Islamic centre claimed it would be "exclusive" and become a target for crime and vandalism,' the BBC said.
A report to the West Norfolk planning committee recommended approval for the community centre.
"Considerations relating to the Islamic nature of the community facility are immaterial and cannot be taken into account in the decision making process," the report said.
The awaited decision was finally issued by the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk planning committee.
WNIA have yet to announce when the community centre will open.
Despite earlier controversy, WNIA chairman said he was "overwhelmed" by the decision, hoping to use the center to "build bridges" in the community.
"In the wider context of the community, it will only help build bridges and any myths and perceptions out there we need to eradicate these, he said.
Hopefully we will focus on this."
The new mosque would also develop a cultural awareness among Muslims and the wider society.
"People need to learn about the differences that exist between all the different people that work and live in King's Lynn and west Norfolk, Marie Connell, from West Norfolk Community Action, said.
"Once people know and understand those differences I think it's a lot easier for them to accept them and rub along together happily."
British Muslims, estimated at nearly two million, have been in the eye of storm since the July 7, 2005, attacks on London public transport system.
In April 2011, a high-profile study by the University of Exeter's European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) warned that Muslims and mosques in Britain's suburbs endure hate and intimidation that are even worse than what they face in big cities.
A Financial Times opinion poll has showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.
A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.