From Monty Python to Allah – London’s New Mega Mosque

  • “We do not know what they are preaching as [it is] all in Arabic.” — A petitioner against the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham mosque, in the middle of one of London’s two largely Jewish areas.
  • “[Ayatollah Syed Mohammed Al-Shirazi]… would constantly encourage the establishment of Hussaini centers across the world, especially in non-Islamic countries… so we can propagate the teachings of the Ahlulbayt.” — Leading members of the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham mosque describing its 30-year history and why it was established.
  • The Ayatollah Sayed Sadiq Hussaini Al-Shirazi, a leading Iranian cleric who resides in the city of Qom, has a list of religious centers and mosques with which he appears to be involved. Among them is the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham in London.

A new Shia Muslim mega mosque and Islamic center – measuring over 3,500 square meters and with room for 3,000 people — has opened in Golders Green, one of only two largely Jewish areas in London. The Shia Muslim religious center, Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham, owns the mosque.

The mosque is situated in the Hippodrome, a prominent building centrally located in North London. The Hippodrome was built in 1913 as a 3,000-seat music hall and for more than 30 years housed the BBC Concert Orchestra. Two episodes of the first series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus were recorded there in 1969. After the BBC left the building in 2005, a Jewish group wanted to convert the building into a place of worship but was rejected because the planning applications stipulated that the building should be used for entertainment. In March 2007, it was purchased by an evangelical Christian center. After the church center closed, the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham center acquired it.

Because the building is a so-called grade II building, special permission is needed to change the purpose of the building. The Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham has applied to the local city council for permission to use the building as a ‘place of worship’. The application is still pending– and worship there is therefore, strictly speaking, illegal — but the mosque is operating nevertheless. It apparently officially opened on September 8, and has been in frequent use since, as is evident from the many photos shared on the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Facebook page.

A partial screenshot of a post from the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Facebook page, advertising the opening of the new mega mosque.

“This is a great move for us and we are very pleased and excited to be in Golders Green in such a diverse area. We can’t wait to get to know our neighbours and plan to welcome them at an open day sometime in December… We will be reaching out to the local churches and synagogues so we can build strong ties with the community,” Ahmed Al-Kazemi, the spokesperson for the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham mosque told the Jewish chronicle in September. It appears unlikely that forging ties with neighbors will be a high priority, as one young member of the mosque explained in a recent fundraising video for the new mega mosque:

“Growing up in this country, same as any other Western country, it is very difficult for the youth to stay on the straight path… it is very easy to stray yourself away from the straight path because of the friends you make at school or at work or anywhere, which is not mixed with your own people. So the Hussainiyah [the Shia mosque] was there as a backbone to us… where if they saw any of us doing anything wrong there would always be a person to advise you and put you in the right path…”

In the fundraising video, leading members of the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham describe the 30-year history of Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham and why it was established. An elderly cleric, not named in the video, said:

“[Ayatollah Syed Mohammed Al-Shirazi[1]] … would constantly encourage the establishment of Hussaini centers across the world, especially in non-Islamic countries and thus would encourage people to travel and reside in Western countries [at this point the cleric uses the term ‘hijrah’ to describe Islamic migration into the West]. I was one of those, who were advised to reside in the West; so we can propagate the teachings of the Ahlulbayt[2]. I arrived in London in 1993. The Hussainiah programmes then took place in an apartment in Edgware Road [in London], which we would attend. At the time these were organized by the late Ayatollah Sheikh al-Garawi…”

The apartment on Edgware Road in London was subsequently exchanged for a larger property, a former garage and car storage facility, at 120 Cricklewood Lane in North London. After 20 years at the Cricklewood property, a younger cleric explained, ‘we were under pressure from various angles to sell the venue in search of a more suitable space’.


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About the author

Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.

[1] A very influential Iranian cleric and Shia Muslim scholar, who belonged to the inner circle, at least initially, of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

[2] The Ahlulbayt are certain descendants of Mohammad, his ‘household’, among them Hussain, the grandson of Muhammad. Shia Muslims frequently call their houses of prayer and study Hussainiah centers, after Hussain.

[3] In 2014 an inquiry was opened into the charity’s dealings, as it had apparently extended a very large loan to a commercial company, Ahlbayt TV.

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