Three women have been given a community protection warning (CPW), prohibiting them from begging outside the Hounslow Jamia Masjid & Islamic Centre. Cllr Hanif Khan said: “These individuals were specifically abusing the kindness of worshippers who were falsely led to believe that they are helping the homeless or destitute. It is clear that in this instance this was not the case. Giving to charity is one of the cornerstones of Islam and these individuals were taking advantage of that by lying about their circumstances.”
Hounslow Borough Council (Labour run) worked with mosque leaders and the police to defend worshippers against harassment. Importantly, the mosque isn’t abandoning its charitable obligations: “The Imam is also recommending that worshippers instead give their money or time to genuine charities, such as the homeless charity St Mungo’s or the local homeless charity, The Soup Kitchen, so their kind donations can really make a difference to the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents.”
This is deemed reasonable, proportionate and compassionate.
Would the media response have been the same if a church had moved to ban beggars from its doors to protect Christian worshippers?
Poole Borough Council (Conservative run) has worked with businesses, residents and the police to ban begging from the town centre. They have introduced a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in the town centre, Poole Quay and Poole Park. Cllr Karen Rampton said: “We want Poole to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone who lives, works or visits our fantastic town. We’re responding to those residents and businesses who tell us that anti-social behaviour is having a detrimental effect on their daily life and livelihood.”
This is deemed unreasonable, disproportionate and un-compassionate. The Church of England and the Labour Party are united in their condemnation:
The Rt Revd Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne, feared banning begging and rough sleeping would push homeless people further out the reach of help from charities.
And Poole reverend Lucy Holt said the order may result in the “criminalising” of those who need “serious and wide-ranging help”.
Katie Taylor, chair of Poole Labour Party, has also condemned the ban and is calling for the council to lift the restriction on sleeping in doorways and car parks.
She said: “These people need help, not punishment. The mere suggestion of fining the homeless still turns these vulnerable people into criminals in the eyes of the public, fostering suspicion rather than sympathy and shielding the real issues of austerity.”
The Bishop of Sherborne has not criticised the actions of the Hounslow Jamia Masjid & Islamic Centre or Hounslow Borough Council – perhaps because it’s not her patch. One wonders if she would have criticised Dorset Islamic Centre or the Ismaili Jamaat Khana in Poole if either had taken such draconian actions against beggars or the homeless harassing worshippers there. But the Bishop of Kensington has not united with the Conservatives to condemn the ‘criminalisation’ of these Hounslow beggars, either.
Are Muslim worshippers in a Labour-run council ward more worthy of protection from the harassing homeless than residents and businesses in a Tory-run council ward? Or is it that women begging around a mosque are bogus, but those who are begging and sleeping rough in Poole are all genuine?
How does the Bishop of Sherborne know this?
Is it all simply a further manifestation of the malignant anti-Tory bias of the bishops and other clergy?