This letter appeared in yesterday’s Daily Mail in response to the article by David Goodhart about the Ahmadiyyah centre in Morden last Monday (see earlier article). The letter starts off by stating that her family lived in Merton Park, “near Morden Underground station”, but decided to move away “when the Labour council gave permission for the mosque to be built”. She goes on to complain that Morden town centre has become run down and full of eastern European and Asian shops and “South Wimbledon, Colliers Wood and Mitcham are much the same”. For the record, there is a large Sainsbury’s, a Marks & Spencer’s and a shopping centre with a car park in Colliers Wood with no Asian shops in sight; Merton High Street has always been full of small shops that served the local population, which includes a large council estate. Clearly, as more Asians have moved to the area (there is now a Bengali-run mosque on that road), the shops have changed. It has always been a busy road (barely less so since the A24 was re-routed to the south) and not exactly a desirable shopping location, hence the preponderance of small shops. Wimbledon is also very nearby and has the usual town centre shops.
Her comment about Merton Park cannot go unchallenged either. Merton Park is not close to Morden underground station; it is close to Merton Park tram stop and is much nearer Wimbledon train and tube station (walking distance, in fact). Here is a map of the area:
Merton Park is the area centred on the “A” arrow. Merton Park tram stop is the green and blue roundel where the A238 road meets Dorset Road. Morden Underground station is the red and blue roundel near the bottom next to Morden Library, and the Ahmadiyyah centre is right at the bottom, on the green road (the A24) next to the red British Rail logo. Wimbledon town centre is at the top, where it says “Centre Court Shopping Centre” with the other tube station symbol (it’s also a main line train station with trains to Waterloo). So Merton Park is some distance from that building, and it is inconceivable that anyone living in Merton Park would have been inconvenienced by the centre. As for the complaint that “the police hold up the traffic on the dual carriageway for the Muslims so they can cross the road”, I have never been there during Friday prayer times, but that is the first complaint I have heard in 13 years that it causes any inconvenience. Any mosque, or any place of worship for that matter, will generate pedestrian and vehicle traffic round their times of congregational worship, with some degree of inconvenience to people using the surrounding roads. For that matter, so do rock concerts and football matches. The only difference between the two is that the Ahmadiyyah centre, and mosques (and Muslims) in general, are fairly new to this country, although we have been here in large numbers for a couple of generations now.
It goes to show that, despite the differences Muslims have with the sect that runs that centre, to white racists and Daily Mail moaners, they are just foreigners, brown people, and the differences between them and similar looking people do not really matter. I should add that a few years ago I was talking to a black Muslim friend in Streatham who was looking for an affordable place to live in south London (his wife is Pakistani and he has three sons) and I suggested Mitcham, and he said that he could not live there as it was a racist area, something I would not have noticed. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Merton moans about its new Asian residents, while neighbouring boroughs like Croydon and Kingston just get on with things.
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