London's oldest Mosque launched a new community project on Friday 11 June, marking a new and exciting chapter in London's cosmopolitan and diverse history. The London Muslim Centre is the largest Muslim and multi-purpose community and cultural centre in Western Europe and is set to provide a range of services to people of all faiths and none.
the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian communities, the children of Abraham, may work together in peace and mutual respect to bring God's blessings to humanity, and healing to our divided and fractured world.' Dr Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi
Shaykh Abdur-Rahman al-Sudais, the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah (Mecca) Islam's holiest mosque formally opened the Centre and led the Friday prayers where approximately 15,000 worshipers filled both the mosque and new Centre, spilling over to the surrounding streets. In total, around 25,000 people - Muslims and those of other persuasions - attended the three-day celebrations over the weekend to mark the opening of the new Centre.
HRH Prince of Wales sent a message of support; he was due to attend but was called away to President Reagan's funeral. Expressing his desire to re-visit the London Muslim Centre, Prince Charles (through a video message) praised the efforts of the local community for raising nearly half of the total cost (£10.4M) and commented, `
it seems to me that such bold endeavours deserve wider support and I can only hope that some of the city institutions and other funding bodies might perhaps be able to take up this challenge, which I think would do so much to encourage community self help projects elsewhere, as well as contributing to better understanding between communities here in London and elsewhere.'
In a written message to the inauguration, the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks noted that the `London Muslim Centre symbolises the fact that the voice of Islam is now a part of our national conversation in Britain.' He prayed, `
that together the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian communities, the children of Abraham, may work together in peace and mutual respect to bring God's blessings to humanity, and healing to our divided and fractured world.'
Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) praised the contribution of British Muslims and welcomed the presence of an institution such as the London Muslim Centre. He said the CRE was committed to seek equality for all and therefore would be supporting efforts of the Muslim community to bring about a change in legislation to provide British Muslims the same protection on par with other faith groups.
Home Office Minister Fiona MacTaggert MP said the Government accepted British Muslims concerns and would consider `new legislation against incitement to religious hatred.' Mosque Honorary Secretary Muhammad Habibur Rahman added that `inciting such hatred ought to be a criminal offence.'
Welcoming guests at the launch of the London Muslim Centre, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, (Chairman, East London Mosque), and Yaqoob Johnson, (Chairman London Muslim Centre Committee) emphasised that `
the London Muslim Centre allows the Muslim community to lay firm roots in British society, by re-affirming its British identity. British Muslims would need to continue to engage in the mainstream political, socio-cultural and economic life of Britain.'