Newport man can keep Islamic sign on home
5:20pm Tuesday 19th February 2013 in News
A NEWPORT businessman has won his fight to keep the Islamic creed on his home.
Mahmood Ali won an appeal against a decision by Newport planners to refuse consent for a green Arabic sign that gives the declaration of the muslim faith on his Chepstow Road house.
The story made international headlines and attracted hundreds of online comments.
Mr Ali appealed to the planning inspector after Newport council refused consent for the green sign on the basis its size and position made it an obtrusive advertisement.
The clothes shop owner said everyone should have the right to have such a blessing on their home, and says it is not an advert.
He said: "I'm very pleased, its a very good decision. It's a good way forward so people can feel comfortable living in the UK.
"If a neighbour wanted to put a George cross on their house I wouldn't have any objection whatsoever. I would respect it fully."
Mr Ali said he had been hurt by some of the internet comments, saying he considered Wales to be his first home.
He said he had neighbours had given positive and negative comments about the sign - he said he would try to make them understand what the sign means to him.
"It's not to show anything off. It's just for religious purposes only," he added.
Mr Ali said it had been a tough period for him, with the loss of his close friend Shaukat Hayat who died with four other members of his family in Saudi Arabia.
Mr Hayat had planned to represent Mr Ali at his appeal hearing last week.
In a report on his decision planning inspector Tim Belcher said the size of the sign was acceptable given the large proportions of the house and that the green colour - used as it is associated with peace in Islam - did not make the symbols garish.
He said the sign, which is two metres wide and 60cm high, preserves the character and appearance of the house and the surrounding conservation area.
Although Mr Ali says the sign is not an advert, it was accepted by both parties that it fell within advertising regulations.
Mr Belcher granted consent for the sign saying the sign should be kept clean and tidy.
Story was read worldwide
THE Argus' story about the Arabic sign was carried by news outlets across the UK and abroad - and attracted more than 150 comments on our website alone.
Majid Rahman, councillor for Victoria ward which covers Maindee, questioned whether the story would have got as much press if it wasn't to do with Islam, and suggested some comments were Islamophobic.
One writer on the Argus site said he thought the sign should be removed "and all mosques opposed," while another it was "a wind up for others". Another implied Britain was becoming an "Islamic republic".
Cllr Rahman said he was pleased with the decision of the planning inspector, and said the sign was "not hurting anyone."
Speaking about the website comments, he said: "I don't think people understand the background of a planning application or the cultural sensitivities towards it. I haven't come across anyone in the community in Newport who has made that sort of comment."
"I think Islamophobia may have played a part in it. I don't think all of the comments were Islamophobic. "Some of the comments may have been."
He added: "If it wasn't to do with Islam could it have got so much press?"