Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, has reignited a row over plans for a mosque in his constituency, remarking cryptically that there were “other reasons” it should not be built to replace an existing facility with no washing facilities or toilet.
Gove's "all sorts of other reasons" is effectively a misnomer for questioning the place of Islam in British urban space and, ultimately, British society. The underlying discourse is deeply hierarchical and, for lack of a better word, ethnocentric.
It prioritizes the "handsomeness" of Victorian architecture and the "Britishness" of the Royal Military Academy at the expense of the implicitly "alien" character of a mosque. Space becomes an arena of definition of Britishness and Islam as mutually incompatible modes of identification, of juxtaposed ways of life. Conservation in this context is intended to reify British culture, to arrest the process of social change that Muslim claims for visibility in the urban landscape signify.