Search

Finsbury Park Mosque open day: ‘We are cohesive and friendly...being labelled terrorists doesn’t help’

PUBLISHED: 12:19 06 February 2017 | UPDATED: 12:21 06 February 2017

Chairman Mohammed Kozbar and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn at Finsbury Park Mosque's open day. Picture: Dieter Perry

Chairman Mohammed Kozbar and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn at Finsbury Park Mosque's open day. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

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.

Choir singing at Finsbury Park Mosque's open day 2017. Picture: Dieter PerryChoir singing at Finsbury Park Mosque's open day 2017. Picture: Dieter Perry

“CATEGORY: TERRORISM.

“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.

Abu Hamza preaching outside Finsbury Park Mosque in 2003. The cleric was accused of abusing his position to preach his radical brand of Islam and make inflammatory sermons. Picture: Michael Stephens/PA WireAbu Hamza preaching outside Finsbury Park Mosque in 2003. The cleric was accused of abusing his position to preach his radical brand of Islam and make inflammatory sermons. Picture: Michael Stephens/PA Wire

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 And it meant the World-Check description, which came to light in August 2015, was a decade out of date.

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.

Finsbury Park Mosque volunteers at the open day. From left: Nafisa, 15; Hager, 16; Muna, 17; Sumaya, 16; Fahmida, 17; Danah, 15. Picture: Dieter PerryFinsbury Park Mosque volunteers at the open day. From left: Nafisa, 15; Hager, 16; Muna, 17; Sumaya, 16; Fahmida, 17; Danah, 15. Picture: Dieter Perry

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.

Florence Price, aged seven, and Jennah Lokist St George, also seven, show off their Henna-painted hands at Finsbury Park Mosque's open day. Picture: Dieter PerryFlorence Price, aged seven, and Jennah Lokist St George, also seven, show off their Henna-painted hands at Finsbury Park Mosque's open day. Picture: Dieter Perry

“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.

Finsbury Park Mosque open day. Picture: Dieter PerryFinsbury Park Mosque open day. Picture: Dieter Perry

“But above all, we are very relieved this has been concluded. It’s unacceptable that we were designated as terrorists based on poor research.”


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Islington Gazette. Click the link in the orange box below for details.

Related articles

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Islington Gazette