iPlayer Radio What's New?
On Now : Breakfast
Playing: Los Esclavos felices - Overture by Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga
Image for Three Centuries of the British Mosque

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Three Centuries of the British Mosque

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 27 November 2011

From a crumbling terrace on the West Derby Road in Liverpool, to a modernist steel minaret in Brick Lane, London, Professor Humayun Ansari from Royal Holloway, University of London, tells the story of the British mosque, giving a glimpse into the changing place of Muslims within British society, stretching across a surprising 3 centuries.

Humayun hears stories reaching back to 1887 of eccentric Victorian travellers, with a passion for the language, art and architecture of Islam; of devotional visitors from Africa seeking a place of worship; of immigrants from the sub-continent yearning for the domes and minarets of home, and Arab wealth willing to supply the demand for patronage.

He also debates the controversy over mosque building - often seen as too 'exotic', too large, too tall or just too foreign. Should mosques fit in with the vernacular or reflect something of Islam's Middle-eastern roots? Professor Ansari talks to mosque architect Shahed Saleem about his proposed new mosque in the East End of London - not a dome or minaret in sight.

Despite the debate around purpose-built super mosques, the majority of mosques in the UK are converted buildings - but some are controversial all the same. Humayun meets up with Dan Cruickshank in Spitalfields, London, to discuss the conversion of a Huguenot chapel, also formerly a synagogue, into a mosque. And he looks into the case of the much disputed Camberley Mosque - once a Victorian school.

Wandering the rose gardens of the UK's very first purpose-built mosque, built in 1889 - just off the commuter line in Woking, Surrey - Professor Humayun Ansari poses the question: what makes a mosque a mosque?

  • The Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking

    The Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking

    Built in 1889 by Dr Gottleib Wilhelm Leitner, it was the first mosque to be built in the UK and Northern Europe.

    The mosque is situated on Oriental Road in Woking

  • Camberley Mosque, London Road, Camberley

    Camberley Mosque, London Road, Camberley

  • Camberley Mosque

    Camberley Mosque

  • Brick Lane Mosque, London

    Brick Lane Mosque, London

    Once a Huguenot Church, a Methodist Chapel, and a synagogue, it has been a mosque since 1976. The minaret was constructed in December 2009


Discover Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas season

Explore the life, work and legacy of the Welsh poet on the centenary of his birth.


  1. Image for BBC World War One

    BBC World War One

    BBC Radio brings you stories of the war that changed who we are, with documentaries exploring the…

  2. Image for Music and Culture of WW1

    Music and Culture of WW1

    Highlights of BBC Radio 3’s special programmes to mark the WW1 centenary. Classical music, art,…

  3. Image for Ravel Revealed

    Ravel Revealed

    Maurice Ravel revealed through guides to his work and life. Ravel and Jazz, Ravel and literature,…

  4. Image for The Radio 3 Documentary

    The Radio 3 Documentary

    In-depth documentaries which each week explore a different aspect of history, science, philosophy,…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss