North London Central Mosque
Founded in 1990 and one of Londons largest mosques, this building (formerly known as and sometimes still referred to as the Finsbury Park Mosque) was made (in)famous by its provocative hook-handed imam, Sheikh Abu Hamza Al-Masri. After slowly forming a base for the extremist group Al-Muhajiroun in the 1990s and inspiring the likes of shoe-bomber Richard Reid and 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui, the mosque saw a plunge in attendance at juma prayers to 150-200 when more moderate Muslims became alienated. The mosque was soon raided by authorities on suspicion of terror activities and closed in January 2003 by the Charities Commission, after which Sheikh Abu Hamza continued Friday prayers on the sidewalk outside. Abu Hamza was eventually expelled from the mosque and arrested in early 2004 on terror charges (He is awaiting extradition to the US). The mosque was reopened in August 2004 and after a final struggle by hardline trustee members, management was transferred to the mainstream Muslim Association of Britain in February 2005. Says the association, MAB hopes that the bad publicity the mosque had attracted in the past will now be history and that a new chapter will be opened whereby this shrine, which happens to be one of Londons largest mosques - with room for up to 2,100 men and women, will attract Muslims and non-Muslims alike to learn the sublime values of Islam that derive from the oneness of our Creator and the oneness of the origin of our humanity.