Finsbury Park Mosque

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Finsbury Park Mosque
North London Central Mosque
North London Central Mosque, Finsbury Park - geograph.org.uk - 759870.jpg
Basic information
Location Finsbury Park, London
United Kingdom
Geographic coordinates 51°33′49″N 0°06′21″W / 51.5636°N 0.1057°W / 51.5636; -0.1057Coordinates: 51°33′49″N 0°06′21″W / 51.5636°N 0.1057°W / 51.5636; -0.1057
Affiliation Muslim Association of Britain
Country United Kingdom
Leadership Mohammed Kozbar, Dr. Azzam Tamimi, Muhammad Sawalha
Website finsburyparkmosque.org
Architectural description
Architectural type Mosque
Date established founded 1988, main building 1994
Specifications
Capacity 2,000 [1]
Minaret(s) 1

The Finsbury Park Mosque, also known as the North London Central Mosque, is a 5-storey mosque located next to Finsbury Park station close to Arsenal Football Club's Emirates Stadium, in the London Borough of Islington.[2] Finsbury Park Mosque is registered as a charity in the UK, serving the local community in Islington and the surrounding Boroughs of North London.[3]

The mosque gained notability when Abu Hamza al-Masri, a radical preacher, became its imam in 1997. In 2003, the mosque was closed by its trustees following an anti-terrorist police raid, and re-opened in 2005 under new leadership.

History[edit]

1988–1997: Opening[edit]

In the 1960s a small room in a guest house at 7 Woodfall Road, London N4 was used as a Prayer Room and community centre for the handful of Bangladeshi Muslims then working and living in the district, and had become inadequate for the growing Muslim community by the time the building was compulsorily purchased by the local authority as part of a Housing Action Plan. The community formed a Muslim Welfare Centre, and in 1975 purchased its own property at St. Thomas’s Road, later also acquiring neighbouring plots. A mosque first came into use on the site in 1988, when it was one of the largest mosques in the UK.[4] In 1994 a new 5-storey mosque building was officially opened in a ceremony attended by Prince Charles and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia who had contributed funds for the building.[5][6][7][8]

1997–2003: Under Abu Hamza al-Masri[edit]

The interior of the dome inside the North London Central Mosque

The mosque rose to notoriety after Abu Hamza al-Masri became its imam in 1997.[9][10] In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he consolidated his control of the mosque, with his followers preventing anyone they did not trust from entering it.[9] According to the mosque's current administration, although originally appointed by the trustees, Abu Hamza gradually took over the mosque from them.[5] When the mosque's trustees asked him to leave, they allege that he resorted to intimidation.[11] In October 1998, the trustees went to the High Court to stop Abu Hamza from preaching at the mosque.[11] They were granted an injunction, but it was not enforced. Many trustees reported being barred from their own mosque by Abu Hamza's supporters and even being assaulted.[11] In April 2002, the Charity Commission for England and Wales suspended Abu Hamza from preaching,[11] but he continued anyway.[12]

During Abu Hamza's control, the mosque's attendance dropped.[5][13] Most of the attendees were his followers. The mosque also became a meeting point for many radical Muslims.[14][15] According to classified American documents released by Wikileaks, Finsbury Park mosque previously served "as a haven" for Islamic extremists who subsequently fought against allied forces in Afghanistan.[16] Al Qaeda operatives including "shoebomber" Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui attended the mosque.[17] In 2002, The Guardian reported that weapons training had taken place inside the building.[18] on September 11th 2002 a conference was held at the mosque titled "A Towering Day in History" to praise the September 11 hijackers on the anniversary of the attack with the participation of Anjem Choudary, Abu Hamza, Omar Bakri Mohammed, Mohammad al-Massari and others.[19][20] In the late 1990s, Abu Hamza and the mosque became the leading international spiritual reference supporting the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA) in the Algerian Civil War, at a time when the GIA was spurned even by most Salafi-jihadist groups for their massacres of civilians.[21][22]

The United States charged Abu Hamza as a "terrorist facilitator with a global reach" in 2004; he was arrested,[9] sentenced in the UK to a seven-year prison sentence in 2006,[23] and subsequently extradited to the United States where he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[24] According to disclosures via WikiLeaks, several Guantanamo Bay detention camp detainees passed through the mosque prior to their subsequent activities.[25][26]

The mosque's role in facilitating terror operations during these years is often mentioned in the context of the Londonistan (term), which was widely used by the international espionage community to describe London, due to the liberty afforded to Muslim extremists by British Authorities.[27][28]

2003–2005: Shutdown and re-opening[edit]

In 2003, 150 anti-terrorist police officers conducted a nighttime raid on the building as part of the investigation into the alleged Wood Green ricin plot.[29][30] Police seized a stun gun and a CS gas canister, among other items,[29] and arrested seven men under the Terrorism Act 2000.[30] The police action had the effect of removing Abu Hamza and his supporters from the mosque.[31]

After the raid, the police handed the mosque to its trustees, who promptly closed it for repairs.[31] The trustees also stated that they were closing it “while it was cleaned of the physical and spiritual filth...".[32] Abu Hamza continued to preach each Friday in the street outside the closed mosque until his arrest in May 2004.[12]

In August 2004 the mosque was reopened, but after reports "hardliners" again asserted control in December 2004, the Charity Commission intervened again and appointed a new board of trustees with the support of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), who were asked by the police, the former trustees, and others to try to turn it around. After changing the locks and taking physical control of the building, the mosque was reopened under heavy police presence.[33][8]

Dr. Azzam Tamimi, a leading member of MAB, described the mosque takeover as "one of the very rare success stories where the Muslim community and others came together and decided to rescue the mosque", although a minority complained of lack of consultation, with Ashgar Bukhari of the campaign group Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK saying that the committee should have been elected.[4] The new management condemned former imam Abu Hamza.[5]

2006-2013: Reformation[edit]

Since reopening, it is widely acknowledged that the mosque has not been associated with radical views.[34][35] British authorities have described the transformation of the mosque to be a major accomplishment.[13] The Telegraph reported that Finsbury Park Mosque's transformation from "radical hotbed" to "model of community relations" has "since been widely regarded as a success story".[12] The mosque made an effort to build ties with the local community, including local MP Jeremy Corbyn, and started engaging non-Muslims and local authorities.[5]

In 2007 the Policy Exchange think tank, in a report titled The hijacking of British Islam, said they had purchased a number of allegedly extremist Islamic books at the mosque.[7] The mosque disputed the allegation, and sued for libel,[36] a case that was struck on the technicality that the mosque as an unincorporated charitable trust is not a corporate entity or legal person and thus not able to claim defamation.[37][38][39] Subsequent action by the mosque and its trustees was settled out of court, with the mosque paying some of Policy Exchange's legal fees and with Policy Exchange, while neither retracting nor apologising for their claim of sale, stating that they "never sought to suggest that the literature cited in the Report was sold or distributed at the Mosque with the knowledge or consent of the Mosque’s trustees or staff."; both sides claimed the settlement as a victory.[40][41]

2014–2016: Incidents[edit]

Prayers at the mosque in 2008

In 2014, HSBC bank closed Finsbury Park Mosque's bank account, and the mosque was unable to open an account with another high street bank being forced to turn to a small Islamic Bank. The closure was prompted by information in World-Check, a confidential database owned by Thomson Reuters, that was due to reported links to terrorism before 2005 as well as purported Muslim Brotherhood links of a current mosque trustee.[42] In response the mosque filed a legal case against Thomson Reuters, which was settled in 2017, with Reuters agreeing to issue an apology and pay damages.[43][44]

In August 2014, police arrived at the mosque after a dispute between an Al Jazeera reporter and the mosque's manager. Both men called the police: the mosque manager claimed the reporter was engaged in "malicious journalism", while the reporter claimed he was detained by the manager until the police arrived (30 minutes).[45][46]

In January 2015, after the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the mosque's "former links with radical preachers resurfaced after the Paris attacks as it was alleged that the Charlie Hebdo gunmen were followers of Djamel Beghal, a radical preacher based there in the late 1990s."[47] The mosque received death threats and hate mail.[47][48] In November 2015, following a mail threat, a man attempted to set fire to the mosque,[49] an attack which reportedly failed due to heavy rain.[50][51] In July 2016, a man threw rotten pork meat at the mosque.[52][53]

2017 attack[edit]

Shortly after midnight on 19 June 2017 several worshippers leaving the nearby Muslim Welfare House were struck by a hired van. One person died of multiple injuries and ten were injured. The attack is being investigated by the Counter Terrorism Command.[54][55] The attack was widely condemned and seen by local Muslim leaders as part of rising Islamophobia in the United Kingdom.[56] Following the attack, Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque, said that the mosque had received multiple death threats.[57][58]

Activities[edit]

The mosque is a member of the Islington Faith Forum, and has positive relations with other faith and non-faith organisations within the borough, such as St Thomas' Church, as well as Islington Council, the local MP Jeremy Corbyn and the Islington police. Besides the five daily congregational prayers held in the mosque, as well as the Friday prayers and regular Islamic teachings and lectures for men, women and children, the mosque has also ensured that it gives back to the local community.[citation needed]

Activities that take place in the mosque include:

  • The ‘Meal for all’, a weekly initiative which provides hot meals for the homeless[59]
  • School open days and #visitmymosque days which provide members of the public with more information on Islam and the mosque’s work[60]
  • A weekly youth centre for children within the local community[citation needed]
  • Regular events on a variety of subjects, such as tackling hate crime, or exploring the environment and climate change[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ London's Finsbury Park built trust between Muslims and others, and it paid off, LA Times, 20 June 2017
  2. ^ "North London Central Mosque Trust – About us". Retrieved 19 June 2017. 
  3. ^ Finsbury Park Mosque (10 October 2010). "Finsbury Park Mosque||Better Community Relation,Service and Image". Finsbury Park Mosque. 
  4. ^ a b Dominic Casciani and Sharif Sakr (7 February 2006). "The battle for the mosque". BBC News. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Finsbury Park Mosque: "Its more than just a mosque now"". 
  6. ^ Inisde Finsbury Park Mosque, TIME, January 2003
  7. ^ a b MacEoin, Denis. "The Hijacking of British Islam." How extremist literature is subverting mosques in the UK (Policy Exchange 2007) (2007), page 77.
  8. ^ a b Hard Law and Soft Power: Counter-Terrorism, the Power of Sacred Places, and the Establishment of an Anglican Islam, Peter W. Edge, RUTGERS JOURNAL OF LAW & RELIGION, Spring 2010, pages 366-371
  9. ^ a b c Abu Hamza profile, BBC News (January 9, 2015).
  10. ^ Charlotte Philby (23 May 2014). "Finsbury Park Mosque: Emerging from the shadow of Abu Hamza". The Independent. 
  11. ^ a b c d "A haven for faithful hijacked by extremists". 
  12. ^ a b c The Finsbury Park Mosque: radical hotbed transformed to model of community relations, The Daily Telegraph, 19 June 2017
  13. ^ a b J. Gallagher, E. Patterson (2009). Debating the War of Ideas. pp. 213–214. 
  14. ^ "Mosque links to radical terrorism". 
  15. ^ Barling, Kurt. "Finsbury Park Mosque: from 'terrorist hostel' to symbol of modernity, openness and tolerance". 
  16. ^ "Finsbury Park mosque 'was a haven' for extremists". 26 April 2011. 
  17. ^ Neville Dean and Nick Allen, PA (7 February 2006). "Finsbury Park mosque's terrorist roll call". London: The Independent. 
  18. ^ Burke, Jason (17 February 2002). "AK-47 training held at London mosque". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  19. ^ Radicals meet at north London mosque to mark 'towering day', Guardian, 12 September 2002
  20. ^ Wiktorowicz, Quintan. "Joining the cause: Al-Muhajiroun and radical Islam.", The Roots of Islamic Radicalism conference, Yale. Devji, F (2005) Landscapes of the Jihad: militancy, morality and modernity. London: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd. 2004., (page 13)
  21. ^ Lyubov Grigorova Mincheva, Lyubov Grigorova, Ted Robert Gurr (2013). Crime-terror Alliances and the State: Ethnonationalist and Islamist Challenges to Regional Security. Routledge. pp. 96–97. ISBN 9780415506489. 
  22. ^ Kepel, Gilles (2006). Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. I.B.Tauris. p. 272. ISBN 9781845112578. 
  23. ^ Archive: Abu Hamza guilty of inciting murder, BBC News (February 7, 2006)
  24. ^ Nicky Woolf, Abu Hamza sentenced to life in prison on US terrorism conviction, The Guardian (January 9, 2015).
  25. ^ WikiLeaks: how Britain 'became a haven for migrant extremists’, Telegraph, 25 April 2011
  26. ^ Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism: Failing to Prevent, by Paul Thomas, 2012, ISBN 978-1849665254, page 28
  27. ^ Londonistan Calling, Vanity Fair, June 2007
  28. ^ Abu Hamza trial: Finsbury Park mosque informant Reda Hassaine sees his enemy jailed, Telegraph, January 2015
  29. ^ a b "Archive: Police raid Finsbury Park mosque". BBC News. January 20, 2003. 
  30. ^ a b "Anti-terror police raid London mosque". BBC News. January 20, 2003. 
  31. ^ a b Mark Phythian (2008). Intelligence, Security and Policing Post-9/11: The UK's Response to the 'War on Terror'. pp. 129–130. 
  32. ^ Ramirez, Debbie and Quinlan, Tara Lai, "The Greater London Experience: Essential Lessons Learned in Law Enforcement - Community Partnerships and Terrorism Prevention" (2011). School of Law Faculty Publications. 351.[1]
  33. ^ New start for 'extremist' mosque, BBC, 11 February 2005
  34. ^ "Van attack on London Muslims suggests new polarization". National Post. However, the mosque was shut down and reorganized and has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade. 
  35. ^ "London mosque attack suspect identified as U.K. authorities move to ease tensions". Toronto Star. After those attacks, the mosque was shut down and reorganized and has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade. 
  36. ^ Tories' favourite think-tank sued by Muslim group, Independent, August 2008
  37. ^ North London Central Mosque Trust v Policy Exchange & Anor, Reference [2009] EWHC 3311 (QB) , Court Queen's Bench Division, 29 November 2009
  38. ^ Eady: Mosque charitable trust can't sue for libel, Press Gazette, 22 December 2009
  39. ^ Mills, Tom, Tom Griffin, and David Miller. "The Cold War on British Muslims: An Examination of Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion." (2011). pages 40-42
  40. ^ "Policy Exchange admits NLCM clear of any wrong-doing". Nlcentralmosque.com. Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  41. ^ North London Central Mosque's case against Policy Exchange ends. Mosque's appeal dismissed. Statement agreed. Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  42. ^ ‘Why did HSBC shut down bank accounts?’, BBC, 28 July 2005
  43. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (1 February 2017). "Finsbury Park mosque wins apology and damages from Thomson Reuters". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 May 2017. 
  44. ^ Siddique, Haroon. "HSBC shuts accounts of Muslim organisations, including Finsbury Park mosque". The Guardian. 
  45. ^ ‘Locked up: Finsbury Park Mosque detains journalist after tricky questions’, Al-Arabiya, August 2014.
  46. ^ ‘Boss of Finsbury Park mosque hits back at imprisonment claims’, The Islington Gazette, August 2014.
  47. ^ a b Lizzie Dearden, ‘London mosques receive death threats and Prophet Mohamed drawings after Charlie Hebdo attack’, The Independent, January 2015.
  48. ^ Hind Hassan, 'Death Threats Received At London Mosque', Sky News, January 2015.
  49. ^ ‘Finsbury Park mosque targeted in suspected arson attack’, The Guardian, November 2015.
  50. ^ “Finsbury Park Mosque: Rain 'saved us from arson attack'”, BBC, November 2015.
  51. ^ “Attempt to burn down prominent London mosque a 'terrorist attack'”, The Middle East Eye, November 2015.
  52. ^ ‘Man throws rotten pork meat at mosque in hate crime’, Newsweek, April 2016
  53. ^ “Police hunt man after rotten meat thrown at Finsbury Park mosque in 'hate crime'”, The Independent, July 2016.
  54. ^ Robert Booth, Steven Morris & Ian Cobain, Finsbury Park attacker named as Cardiff resident Darren Osborne, The Guardian (June 19, 2017).
  55. ^ Helena Horton & Emily Allen, Everything we know about the Finsbury Park mosque terror attack, The Telegraph (June 19, 2017).
  56. ^ "Finsbury Park attack: Muslim leaders denounce 'most violent manifestation' of Islamophobia". The Daily Telegraph. 19 June 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017. 
  57. ^ London Mosque Targeted in Terror Attack Now Receiving Death Threats, Vice News, Hind Hassan, 30 June 2017
  58. ^ Islamophobic 'rivers of blood' threats to Finsbury Park Mosque in wake of terror attack, International Business Times, Ewan Palmer, 30 June 2017
  59. ^ Al Jazeera (8 August 2015). "London mosque offers help and hot meals to homeless". Al Jazeera. 
  60. ^ The Guardian (3 February 2017). "More than 150 UK mosques hold open day for non-Muslims". The Guardian. 

External links[edit]