Historical evolution of the East London Mosque
By Professor Humayun Ansar OBE
Post 9/11 and 7/7, the mosque, as a socially dynamic and influential multi-purpose community institution, has come under increasing scrutiny as academic and political debates surrounding identity and belonging, the radicalisation of young Muslims, struggles for power within and beyond Muslim communities and policies on integration and social cohesion reach a new pitch. For a Muslim to feel at home or for a non-Muslim to recognize a Muslim space, the presence of certain Islamic symbols is important. In Britain, the construction of mosques has been part of a process of identity formation, a process that has become concerned with non-Muslim anxieties over visible and audible Muslim presence. By exploring historically, the dynamic interplay between Muslim experience and the institutions of British society with regard to the efforts for establishing a mosque in London over many decades – the East London Mosque - this paper attempts to deepen our understanding of how Muslims have sought to establish themselves as an integral part of British society, through a specific kind of place-making.
Humayun Ansari is Professor of Islam and Cultural Diversity and Director of the Centre for Minority Studies, Department of History, at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has taught undergraduates and postgraduates in the Faculty of History and Social Sciences. His research interests include radical Islamic thought, ethnicity, identity, migration and multiculturalism. He has advised and addressed a wide spectrum of organisations and provided consultancy and training in the field of ethnicity and equal opportunities for organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors, including government departments and agencies, further and higher education, and within industry and commerce.