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24 September 2014

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You are in: London > Faith > Religion > Religion I-Z > Model Mosque

Croydon Mosque

Croydon Mosque - one of the finalists

Model Mosque

Four London mosques are among the eight finalists in a new reality TV show on the Islam channel which hopes to find Britain's best mosque.

Title: Show searches for top mosque
Film maker:Asad Ahmad
Date:October 9 2007

by Asad Ahmad, BBC London TV

Most broadcaters are feeling slightly nervous about programmes which encourage telephone or text voting in light of recent scandals - but for Islam TV this is a whole new way of swinging the Muslim community into action.

Using similar knock-out rules as the X-Factor or Big Brother, Model Mosque is a reality based TV show which allows viewers to pick their favourite mosque.

There are around 1500 mosques in the UK with London having the largest concentration to reflect the single biggest Muslim community in Britain.

However, it's still a point of achievement to have four of the eight finalists in the capital - Leyton, Crickelwood, Croydon and Harringey.

"We wanted to find the best ones and encourage other mosques to follow their good example."

Abrar Hussain, Islam Channel presenter

Abrar Hussain is the presenter and creator of Model Mosque and he's been keen to show the positive side of the Muslim community as he says the media attention in recent years has been largely negative.

Events at Finsbury Park Mosque did not help the image of Muslim places of worship. Abu Hamza, who's serving time at Belmarsh Prison on terrorism charges, brought an extremist element to the mosque which was widely reported.

The mosque has since turned a corner and local Muslims say they have reclaimed their mosque. "There are a lot of good mosques in the UK" Abrar tells me, "we wanted to find the best ones and encourage other mosques to follow their good example.

"We then decided to get our viewers, especially young British Muslims, to decide the winner and so I came up with a competition format which engages the audience - it seems to be working well."

Every week, two of the mosques go head to head. A short film is shown about the activities of the mosque and a mosque committee member is asked several questions in the studio.

Viewers then text or phone their vote to find the winner who goes through to the next round. The winning mosque gets a 35,000 pound consultation and the best practices of the mosque will be shared around the country.

The aim of the TV programme is to raise the standard of Mosques in London and the rest of the UK. Mosques were originally not only places of prayer, but social centres where people could gather, talk, eat, play, get health advice and discuss problems and ideas. It was an arena to share thoughts.

Today, some mosques have been widely criticised by government, the security services and large sections of the Muslim community for being hot beds of extremism where differences of opinion will not be tolerated. The makers of Model Mosque want to take Britain's Mosques back to their original purpose.

Yusuf Hansa is from the Noor-Ul-Islam mosque in Leyton, one of the finalists in the competition.

The mosque started from humble beginnings in 1990 but has expanded to cater for the growing community. It may not win prizes for its design or architecture, but it's what on the inside that counts.

The mosque is being judged, like the others, on its level of integration within society, its communtiy services and transparency on its activities. They have worshippers of all ages and nationalities.

"We have excellent facilities for women - in fact more women often come to the mosque than men. We also have activities for the young and old and we have an open door policy for non-Muslims who can come and visit."

Yusuf Hansa is very proud of the mosques achievements and he has every reason to be. The mosque has held lectures and discussions for local people of all faiths and Noor-Ul-Islam has an excellent relationship with the local council.

Yusuf says "we want to work together with people. People can come in and learn about Islam and we can learn more about them."

Cricklewood Mosque

Cricklewood Mosque

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee are keen to bring about changes to many of Britain's mosques who they blame for alienating young British Muslims and allowing others to be influenced by fundamentalist teachings.

Raza Nadim from MPAC welcomes the Model Mosque programme but feels that good mosques are in the minority.

I met him near Whitechapel Mosque in East London which has seen a successful redevelopment programme. "there are hundreds of mosques which should be named and shamed for not integrating and being a service to the community. The Islam Channel should think about making another programme called Manky Mosque to force mosques to improve".

The City is home to the plush offices for the Islam Channel. Next door to the large conference room is an even bigger nerve centre for developing and editing programmes.

The staff are young Muslims with a passion for change and communicating a message or openess. Mohammed Ali is the Chief Executive of the Islam Channel, "We believe in name-and-fame not name-and-shame.

We want to encourage Mosques to be better. They should be open to women and be the centre for community activities. They have so much to offer the non-Muslim community. Mosques have a place in 21st Britain for everyone and they can be an asset for society."

There is a real awareness amongst the Muslim Community of the bad press mosques have received especially in London.

Many Muslims would privately accept that much of the bad press has been fuelled by the activities of a handful of Muslims although some still hold on to the fact that they believe the Media is inherently Islamaphobic.

But post 7/7 and recent high profile terror trials, there seems to be an increasing desire to reclaim mosques for the community both in the interests of Muslims and wider society.

The winner of the Model Mosque competition will be announced before the end of the year.

Title: Show searches for top mosque
Film maker:Asad Ahmad
Date:October 9 2007

last updated: 10/10/07

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