'Mega-mosque' plan raises specter of extremism


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A secretive, ultra-orthodox Islamic sect has turned to the Internet to calm British fears about its plan to build a "mega-mosque" in London that could hold 12,000 devotees.

Tablighi Jamaat, which reportedly has at least 70 million followers in 150 countries, preaches "a rigorous, unifying vision of Islam" which serves as "an advance guard for political Islamists," according to Islam expert Gilles Kepel.

Bad publicity has generated strong local opposition and officials may try to block construction permits, according to The Times of London. Anti-terror agencies in France and the United States say the proposed mosque's 500-seat Islamic school could become a recruiting ground for terrorist groups, though Tablighi Jamaat's insists it has no ties to terrorism or terrorists.

The organization has hired a British public relations firm to lobby government officials and is using a website and YouTube video to assure citizens that the sect "stands for democracy and freedom," Times Online reported. In contrast to the "mega-mosque," Britain's largest Christian church building seats 3,000.