London: The lower basement of London’s famous entertainment hub “Trocadero” will soon have an Islamic Community Centre that will also have a Mosque or Muslim Prayer Hall.
The proposal to use the lower basement of London Trocadero as Islamic Community Centre cum Mosque was moved to Westminster Council by Aziz Foundation – a non-profit established by Malawian-born UK billionaire Asif Aziz.
According to The Mail, a previous proposal for a 1,000-capacity mosque at the site were dropped in 2020 following a backlash from residents and far-right groups.
However, Westminster City Council approved a planning application for a smaller development in May this year marked as Piccadilly Community Centre.
Aziz Foundation will use the lower basement - which comes to around 1.5% of the total area of the iconic building, to what it calls “repurpose” as a Community Centre that will also have a Muslim Prayer Hall.
“Situated in a vacant space in the basement of the Trocadero, the Centre will provide an indispensable place for the Muslims who work, visit and live in the area and for whom prayer forms a cornerstone of their life”, Aziz Foundation said in a statement.
Aziz Foundation issued the statement following the media reports that claimed “London Trocadero will be converted into a huge three-storey Mosque”.
There were outrage and backlash after the newspapers carried these reports on July 17, 2023.
In the statement issued next day, Aziz Foundation refuted the reports, and said “nothing is being built” at the famous building. Instead, it will be using the available vacant space to re-purpose it as a Community Centre.
“While the Centre will provide an area for prayers, this development is also anticipated to nurture much-needed interfaith dialogue and bring faith communities and community groups together utilising the available space”, the foundation said.
Interestingly, the area already has French Protestant Church of London, Soho Baptist Chapel, Chinese Church of London, Macedonian Orthodox Church and also a Radha Krishna Temple.
Eyebrows however were raised when the British property tycoon got the local council’s permission to convert the vacant space of London Trocadero into Mosque.
The area closest to Trocadero where Muslims can offer prayers is Islamic Centre in Soho. The Soho Islamic Centre however is at its maximum capacity now, and hence Muslims are forced to pray on the streets due to insufficient space.
The Aziz Foundation was set up as a family foundation in 2015 by Asif Aziz, a property entrepreneur and philanthropist, to bring together his various philanthropic work. Besides, the Foundation offers Masters scholarships and paid internship opportunities.
The London Trocadero was an entertainment complex on Coventry Street. It was originally built in 1896 as a restaurant, which closed in 1965. In 1984, the complex reopened as an exhibition and entertainment space.
It became known for the video-game oriented SegaWorld attractions which were added in 1996, and later downscaled and renamed to "Funland" before its closure in 2011. Part of the building was opened as a hotel in 2020.
The complex incorporates separate historic London buildings, including the old London Pavilion Theatre (a former venue for the Palace of Varieties), the New Private Subscription Theatre, the Royal Albion Theatre, the Argyll Subscription Rooms, the Eden Theatre and the Trocadero Restaurant.
Asif Aziz, who owns a property portfolio worth over £2 billion ($2.6 billion), purchased the Trocadero for over £220 million in 2005, according to The Mail.
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