The Mosques Of London


I wanted to post this after reading the depressing remarks on YouTube that accompany films of old London streets about ‘how nice London looked when all the residents were white’.

London is famous for its churches (and its pubs) but people rarely talk about its mosques. Historically, London has a strong connection with the Islamic faith.

The London Central Mosque stands at the edge of Regent’s Park near the top of Baker Street. It had been founded during World War II in recognition of the British Empire’s substantial Muslim population and their support for the Allies during the war. The Churchill War Cabinet requisitioned the site and King George VI opened an Islamic cultural centre. A mosque was the crowning touch, but it was delayed for decades by planning objections and irregularities. It can hold five thousand worshippers, and was given as an unconditional gift to the UK Muslim community, although the land was donated in return for a site in Cairo for an Anglican cathedral. Finally opened in 1978, it added a golden dome to the London skyline.

One of the best things about the mosque is the spectacular view inside, because the floor-to-ceiling windows overlook mature trees which fill the interior with a view of greenery. It’s well worth a visit.

It might surprise Muslims to know that there had been calls to build a mosque in central London from 1900 onwards, and that the oldest Islamic organisation in London dates back to 1886. London now has more mosques than any other country in Europe except Turkey. The one nearest me is a converted Victorian pub. The difference with these adapted mosques is that they re-use old buildings rather than being raised as separate new structures, and are almost invisible – although there’s one with a shiny new spire in Brick Lane.

2 comments on “The Mosques Of London”

  1. Gretta says:

    I love this. What a beautiful looking building, and such a history. We have a tiny wee masjid just around the corner from us – a converted corner store, from which I used to get my lollies after school, as it happens – and, like your converted spaces, pretty much invisible apart from a small sign on the front and a notice by the door asking you to remove your shoes. It’s only been there for a year or two, and as far as I know is the first masjid in the city. I love that it’s here. For ages the local Muslim community were congregating in, of all places, the local Basilica.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Pleased that the people of the basilica opened it to the Muslim community. We have one that was opened by the Aga Khan and it, too, is very beautiful. It has a well designed suite of meeting and class rooms downstairs and was built so that you don’t really see it from the main street. There’s also one in the odd area in Richmond where you find a Sikh gurdwara, a mosque and school, a Buddhist temple – and that is an extremely ornate, gilded, tiled, and painted structure- all within a square mile.

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