London mosque offers help and hot meals to homeless

Finsbury Park Mosque that had been embroiled in controversies opens its door for the city’s invisible population.

Finsbury Park Mosque has become a community centre as much as a place of worship [Reuters]

A mosque in London has opened its doors for the city’s homeless, providing the invisible population with hot meals and psychological support once a week.

Around 20 people carrying bags and backpacks gathered in Finsbury Park Mosque in the British capital’s north this Thursday, amid the presence of social workers available to listen to their worries and hopes.

Mohammad Ali, the deputy director of the Mosque, said that the project “is part of several inter-religious initiatives that aim to serve the communities around”.

He told Al Jazeera’s Mohammad Amin that the mosque hosts a number of activities that target both Muslims and non-Muslims, adding that “Muslims should have a role in social integration”.

The mosque, located in London Borough of Islington, has been trying to emerge from the shadows of the controversies it had been embroiled in over the past years.

Its name had been linked with the former imam Abu Hamza al-Masri who was sentenced to life in prison by a New York court earlier this year after being found guilty of terrorism charges.

He spent eight years in prison in the UK for inciting violence, before his extradition in 2012 to the US to face the terrorism charges.

Management change

Finsbury Park Mosque has also been associated with “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid and 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay, who both have reportedly attended sermons there.

In 2005, a new management took over to transform the building into a community centre as much as a mosque, holding regular inter-faith meetings to discuss issues related to health, education, employment, social integration.

Almost 2,000 worshippers attend the weekly Friday prayer at the mosque.

In it, the homeless are finding the social security they lack on the streets, Ishiya, a volunteer at the mosque, told Al Jazeera.

She said that the organisers are looking to provide better meals, and with more regularity once they have additional resources.

According to the UK government figure, there were almost 28,000 homeless applications recieved in 2015, of which about 13,500 households were accepted as homeless.

Each year about 185,000 adults in England report that they experienced homelessness, according to charity group Crisis UK.

Source: Al Jazeera