A forensics officer near Finsbury Park Mosque in London after a van ploughed into pedestrians, injuring 10. Carl Court / Getty Images
A forensics officer near Finsbury Park Mosque in London after a van ploughed into pedestrians, injuring 10. Carl Court / Getty Images

Finsbury Park Mosque: a saga of transformation



Finsbury Park Mosque does not look like a typical house of prayer.

It has a copper-coloured dome and a minaret to call the faithful to prayer, but the rest of the five-storey building resembles a tasteful office block.

The mosque, opened in 1994 in the north London borough of Islington, serves a populous Muslim community.

It provides hot meals once a week to homeless people in the neighbourhood, and runs a youth centre and awareness campaigns on hate crime and climate change.

But the mosque also has a controversial association with extremism and has been under investigation by British authorities in the past. At least two Al Qaeda operatives are believed to have attended it.

In 2002, it was reported that extremists had received weapons training at the mosque, which was then led by cleric Abu Hamza Al Masri, who at the time was wanted for terrorist crimes in Yemen.

The following year, British police raided the mosque and shut it down until 2005, when a new board of trustees was installed.

Abu Hamza was arrested in 2004 and convicted of 11 terror-related offences.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison in the UK before being extradited to the US, where he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The mosque’s association with him made it particularly vulnerable to hate crimes. Two years ago, attackers threw petrol bombs at the building during prayers.

But under its new board, the mosque has also gained a reputation for moderation and charity.

On Sunday night, a representative of the mosque called in to a telethon to say the congregation had raised £3,500 (Dh16,415) for the victims of the fire that struck Grenfell Tower in west London last week.

Hours later, the mosque’s faithful became the targets of a murderous man driving a van.

ssubramanian@thenational.ae​

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