Home World ‘Our bills have tripled’: UK’s first Turkish mosque struggles for survival in London

‘Our bills have tripled’: UK’s first Turkish mosque struggles for survival in London

by Alexander
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'Our bills have tripled': UK's first Turkish mosque struggles for survival in London

NOTnestled among the kebab shops, Caribbean takeaways and brand-new apartments of Dalston, north-east London, is the UK’s first Turkish mosque. Like many things built by and for the deep-rooted communities in this heavily gentrified area of ​​London, it is struggling to survive.

“Our bills have tripled, building maintenance costs have skyrocketed and we are not collecting enough money,” said Erkin Güney, 59, who runs and owns Masjid Ramadan, also known as the mosque. Shacklewell Lane. He added that the mosque could be forced to close its doors by next Ramadan.

Monthly costs are around £4,000. “We earn between £200 and £300 a week if we’re lucky,” he said. He recently received a £17,000 electricity bill.

When the Guardian visited the mosque last Friday, a funeral service was in progress. This is the main source of income for the mosque. The rest is made up of sharply declining donations. The death of a loved one is not only a blow to the community, it often also means the loss of a regular donor.

Güney owns the land on which the mosque is located. He added that the mosque could be forced to give in to developers’ offers within a year. Ten years ago he received an offer of £13 million and in recent years an offer of £18 million. “They want to demolish it and turn it into apartments. It’s tragic,” he said.

If the land is sold to developers, the current building would be demolished and it is hoped a “mixed-use mosque” would replace it. “If we were to redevelop it, we would have a mosque and some businesses on the ground floor and apartments on the top. It wouldn’t have the same energy,” Güney said.

A funeral service takes place at Shacklewell Lane Mosque. Photography: Andy Hall/The Observer

The mosque was built in 1903 and initially served as a synagogue for the Jewish community. In the 1970s the building was abandoned and taken over by Erkin’s father, Ramadan Güney, who turned it into the UK’s first Turkish mosque. “At that time it was thriving, there were lots of people and support. There were no financial problems at the time,” Güney said.

In recent years, Turkish Cypriot worshipers who attended the mosque “have died, moved or cannot come here,” Güney said.

Dalston has seen significant gentrification since the 2000s and campaigners have fought to keep the nearby Ridley Road Market out of the hands of developers. Nonetheless, rents soared and many longtime residents were forced to leave.

Güney said: “A lot of the community moved because they couldn’t afford to live in the area. They moved because they couldn’t afford to survive. We have lost our community.

Younger generations of British Turkish Cypriots have also stopped attending the mosque because they are “westernized and disconnected,” Güney said. “We continue to contact them and encourage them to come back. We are trying to build this bridge, but it is difficult,” he said.

Competition has also increased at the local level, with around ten mosques opening in the region since the opening of Masjid Ramadan. Rising costs also hit those who worship at the mosque. “The congregation is not strong here, everyone is on the edge,” Güney said. Some people have resorted to putting buttons in the collection box.

Güney took over the management of the mosque about 12 years ago. Before that, he owned a nightclub. “One day I said, ‘I’m not doing this anymore,’ and I closed the doors,” he said. Michael, the “good Christian boy” who helps maintain the mosque, has always been at Güney’s side. “He went from John McVicar to Gandhi,” he said.

The sound system that played funky house in the nightclub is now in the mosque. Sometimes the loudspeakers are installed on the roof while the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, is broadcast to the streets below. “I am not an ordinary mosque president,” Güney said.

He calls for regular donations to keep the mosque afloat. “If 100 people give us five or ten dollars a month, that will take the pressure off,” he said. It is also raising funds to repair the historic building. Recently a broken window on the roof of the mosque cost more than £2,000 to repair.

Güney said: “I’m not here for the money, if I had been I would have sold the building and left. It’s a mosque, it shouldn’t be for sale, it shouldn’t be touched. It is a sacred place.

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