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Finsbury Park mosque in ‘new era’ following ‘hostile’ Abu Hamza days

12:43 05 June 2014

The Finsbury Park Mosque

The Finsbury Park Mosque

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Mosque received hate mail following radical cleric’s conviction for terrorist charges

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Mohammed Kozbar, manager of Finsbury Park MosqueMohammed Kozbar, manager of Finsbury Park Mosque

Despite being free of radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza for more than a decade, Finsbury Park mosque still suffers from its former association.

Following Hamza’s conviction on 11 terrorism charges in the US last month the mosque in St Thomas’s Road received hate mail, one of several instances over the past few years.

But this doesn’t worry Mohammed Kozbar, manager of the formerly named North London Central Mosque, who has helped transform a “hostile” environment for extremism into a thriving limb of the community.

“There are no problems, we still suffer from some extremist far right groups sending us nasty letters – one day they put a pig’s head outside our door,” said Mr Kozbar.

“But we know these people are in a very small minority and we will not allow that to affect us. Our response will be to engage more in the community.

“Back then the atmosphere was not a healthy one, it was hostile to the community.”

Since 2005, the mosque has become a place for everyone in the area, as well as attracting a much wider Muslim audience.

The building is often used by Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn for his surgeries, local councillors, as well as to hold the Islington Faith Forum.

Mr Kozbar said: “We have a new era since 2005, an era of community connection, building bridges, better relationships – this is the area we’ve been focused on.

“We’re mainly focused on our youth, these people are the future. We have to give them the right attention by engaging them within the community – creating an atmosphere away from the gangs, crime and extremism.

“Before 2005, only 50 people came to Friday prayers, now we have 2,000 people turning up.

“This gives you an idea of the change in the Muslim community.”

Despite the work being done by the mosque in the Finsbury Park area, Holloway was twice linked to young extremists involved in the Syria conflict earlier this year.

Mr Kozbar is focused on teaching the community’s youth different ways to channel their fears and frustrations for those suffering in the east.

“We are telling the youth not to go and fight there, this is wrong and very dangerous. You have to help in the right way by raising money for charities that are helping,” he said.

“We have great sympathy for the Syrian people and the people who are suffering, but going over there to fight is a big mistake. We are educating our people, Syria do not need fighters, they need the right kind of help.”

On Sunday, June 22, the mosque will hold its annual open day, with councillors, MPs, police and Arsenal Football Club representatives in attendance.

“Last year, we had more than 500 people come to our open day, we showed them music, henna, calligraphy,” said Mr Kozbar.

“This year we want as many people to come as possible. We want to see our neighbours and all the local schools there.”

The open day runs from 12noon to 6pm at the mosque in St Thomas’s Road. For more information call 020 7424 5252 or e-mail info@finsburyparkmosque.org

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