Finsbury Park Mosque out to defy terror listing by working with community
- Credit: Archant
Mosque has launched a new scheme offering free meals to homeless, poor and vulnerable people
In the main hall of Finsbury Park Mosque, a small group of men are sat eating chunky vegetable soup. Packets of Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference cookies and plates of Jaffa Cakes align the long table. Tea and coffee supply is liberal.
Meanwhile, another group is hunched over a table football stand. Grins are etched on each face, eyes fixated on the little figures.
It is not a scene you would expect at a centre that has just been named on a terrorism blacklist.
This month, the St Thomas’s Road mosque launched its “Meal for ALL” scheme. Aimed at homeless, poor and vulnerable people, the mosque opens its doors from 7pm-9pm every Thursday evening. People can enjoy a free meal, play games and receive support and advice from social workers.
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This same mosque was recently identified as a potential terror threat on a database called World-Check, owned by news agency Thomson Reuters. It was due to previous association with radical preacher Abu Hamza in the 1990s, plus alleged links to the 7/7 London bombings and shoe bomb terrorist Richard Reid.
But this was stamped out when chairman Mohammed Kozbar took over in 2005. He believes Meal for ALL flies in the face of perception.
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“We are not just a mosque, but a community centre. We want to help people, regardless of background. The scheme is open to everybody: Muslims and non-Muslims. For a couple of hours, they can have fun and forget about whatever problems they may have.”
Mr Kozbar’s voice hardens upon mention of the World-Check listing: “Since 2005, we have turned this mosque from hostile to cohesive. To be named in this list was a shock for us and we are considering legal action. We want to clear our name: it’s damaged our reputation. Everyone in Finsbury Park knows it is a different place now.”
Back in the hall, one man has finished his soup. He asks what the main course is. The soup IS the main, volunteers tell him.
Mr Kozbar, 48, of Harrow, adds: “If we get funds, we will upgrade from soup to proper meals. At the moment, the mosque funds all the food and it is limited. But we are happy to run as we are until we can improve. As long as people enjoy themselves, we will continue. And don’t forget, we keep religion away from this. It is purely social.”