Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Don't brand Brick Lane

London's local councils have never been known for good sense or sagacity, and yet they continuously manage to surprise me with new levels of folly. Illustrating this point, Tower Hamlets council is planning to install two hijab-shaped arches at each end of Brick Lane – at a reported cost of £1.85m.

The proposed structures are planned as part of a cultural trail aimed at celebrating the area's rich cultural history. Also a vehicle for increasing tourism, the arches will be bankrolled by money paid to the council following the development of Bishops Square and Spitalfields market.

The proposal has understandably ruffled a few feathers, not only because of the associated cost, but because of the symbol chosen to represent the area. The hijab, highly symbolic of Islam, will brand the area with a single identity, casting aside the diversity that makes the area what it is. Muslims account for more than 30% of the local population, which is, of course, relatively high, but that is little justification. Would the council think to erect two massive crosses for the area's Christian population or two yarmulkes to represent its links with the Jewish community? Read more
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