May 1, 2021, 07.57 PM

LONDON, - Muslims in Great Britain might breathe a sigh of relief, as lockdown restrictions in the country are eased in time for them to worship communally in mosques during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

But for Indonesian Muslims in London, that joy is dampened by the awareness that they do not have a mosque of their own.

However, they hope to make a difference in this year's Ramadan, as they carried out a concerted effort to raise funds to build a mosque and Indonesian Islamic Centre (IIC).

The need to build a mosque came about, as Indonesian Muslims in the British capital realized that the current IIC in Wakemans Hill Avenue in North London can only accommodate up to 100 people.

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Since its founding in 2003, the two-story house has become a place for the community to gather, carry out weekly praying recitations, provide religious education for children, interpret the surahs, and be an outlet for the arts.

However, the growing community became aware of the need for their own mosque in London.

"The existing facilities in Wakemans Hill Avenue are no longer adequate," said IIC construction committee chairman Eko Kurniawan said in a press release dated Thursday, April 29.

"Since it is a house located in a residential area, the permit is limited to residential activities, not for the public or communities. As a result, we cannot make the most of social activities in this community."

Hamim Syaaf, an Indonesian who has lived in London for decades, said the number of Indonesians in Britain continues to increase. "We clearly need a place that can accommodate the growing Congregations,” he said.

Limitations from the permit and inadequate facilities for religious activities prompted stalwarts in the Indonesian Muslim community to form the committee to construct a new mosque, which they aim to bring about soon.

The Indonesian Islamic Centre in North London (Photo courtesy of  Indonesian Islamic Centre]Dok. Indonesian Islamic Centre The Indonesian Islamic Centre in North London (Photo courtesy of Indonesian Islamic Centre]

The committee plans to sell the house on Wakemans Hill Avenue and to use the proceeds to buy land to build their mosque on. 

Based on the committee's calculations, the Wakemans Hill Avenue property is worth around Rp10.076 billion (£500,000 ). The committee also has funds of Rp5.038 billion (£250,000) in donations from private citizens in the UK, Indonesia and other countries.

"We estimate that we will need £750,000-1.25 million [Rp. 14.2-23.7 billion] to build the mosquen," Eko explained.

But he is optimistic that Indonesian Muslims in London can have a mosque to call their own, as his plan is supported by the Indonesian Embassy in London and the Indonesian Diaspora.

Also read: Indonesia Slams BWF For Stopping the Country's All England Run

Once built, the mosque will house the London IIC, which will consist of classrooms, a library and a business office. The edifice will have enough space to hold the five daily prayers, Friday prayers, as well as prayers for festive occasions like Eid Al-Fitr  and Eid Al-Adha.

Built for a maximum capacity of 500 people, Eko hoped the mosque can host Indonesian community activities, particularly sizeable gatherings, year-round.

The classrooms can hold classes on the education for young people, particularly for instruction in the al-Qur'an and Islam. Eko and other organizers hope they will serve as a kind of madrassa for Indonesian children and adolescents in London.

A view of Big Ben and Westminster Bridgedok. | Prochasson Frederic A view of Big Ben and Westminster Bridge

The mosque organizers hope that business units in the mosque, such as halal restaurants, grocery stores, and Muslim clothing stores, can contribute to its operational upkeep.

Elvi Ibrahim, an Indonesian resident of London, are among those looking forward to the mosque. He said the house of worship is a dream come true to the Indonesian community there since the 1990s.

"A number of members of the Indonesian community did attempt to raise funds to build a mosque in London about 30 years ago," said Elvi.

"We even formed a committee for [the mosque's] construction, but the plan fizzled as its members aged. We hope the younger members behind this mosque can succeed where we failed, and build the house of worship,” he continued.

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Hamim realized that the construction of a mosque in London requires hard work, but he is optimistic that it can be built.

"There are [Indonesian] communities in England, across Europe and in Indonesia itself that can help us bring about the mosque's construction after decades of effort," he said.

Lockdown restrictions in the UK eased on March 29, two weeks before Ramadan. Communal prayer in mosques are allowed, as places of worship were not required to close under the lockdown measures put in place since last  January.

However, strict precautionary measures are still applied. Social distancing is still in force, face masks must be worn, individual prayer mats and shoe bags must be used, and people are encouraged to perform ablutions at home.

(Writer/Editor: Shintaloka Pradita Sicca)


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