Finsbury Park Mosque open day: ‘We are cohesive and friendly...being labelled terrorists doesn’t help’
- Credit: Archant
Finsbury Park Mosque was vindicated last week. It won a libel case after it was falsely labelled as a terrorist organisation. Yesterday, it held a successful, inclusive open day. The Gazette spoke to chairman Mohammed Kozbar.
“BIOGRAPHY: Alleged terror-linked Sunni mosque in North London. Membership reportedly included terrorists and radical Islamists. Allegedly recruited terrorists and facilitated terrorist activity in UK.”
Up until July 31, 2015, this was how Finsbury Park Mosque was falsely categorised on World-Check, a major online database which provides due diligence services to banks and government agencies.
Chairman Mohammed Kozbar didn’t know it at the time, but this listing caused the closure of the mosque’s HSBC bank account in 2014.
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No one is denying the mosque, in St Thomas’s Road, used to be a dodgy place. After all, it was where terror-supporting cleric Abu Hamza preached. He is currently serving a life sentence in the US.
But Finsbury Park Mosque’s extremist links were stamped out in 2005, when Mr Kozbar took over. In his words, it has gone from “hostile” to “cohesive”. And it meant the World-Check description, which came to light in August 2015, was a decade out of date.
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Last Wednesday, the mosque was vindicated at the High Court when Thomson Reuters, the news agency which owns World-Check, expressed its “regret” at publishing the allegations. It also paid £10,000 in damages.
It meant that yesterday’s eighth annual community open day, which had been scheduled months in advance, couldn’t have taken place at a more appropriate time.
It was part of the national “visit my mosque” day. Over 160 mosques nationwide took part, including the Muslim Welfare House in nearby Seven Sisters Road.
Mr Kozbar told the Gazette: “It was a time for people of all backgrounds to get together and show we can face up to the challenge of community cohesion. It was family day out to build bridges.
“Let’s face it, people have misconceptions about Islam. So we wanted to show the mosque is more than just prayers, but also a community centre where people can have fun. It’s why we had the kids’ activities like henna [hand painting] and calligraphy [word-based visual art].”
Islington Council was last week forced to offer advice about visiting the US after Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting Muslims. And Mr Kozbar added it is a “worrying time” for mosque leaders.
“This attitude is causing a lot of problems in many countries, he said. “It’s really mad, preventing these people from entering a country when many of them fled dictatorships, or lack of democracy, in the first place. All this in a country we look up to as one of the greatest democracies.
“In this climate, the World-Check listing does not help.”
After HSBC closed the mosque’s account, it was rejected by every other mainstream bank. The only one that would allow it to open an account was the Islamic Bank of Britain in Edgware Road, which did not offer online banking or debit cards until a couple of months ago.
“It was very inconvenient,” Mr Kozbar said. “We had to travel into central London to make deposits, and it’s risky to carry cash around.
“But above all, we are very relieved this has been concluded. It’s unacceptable that we were designated as terrorists based on poor research.”