Ahmad Alkazemi, the public relations manager for the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Islamic centre, has said he is “disappointed and surprised” by some of the language that has used by opponents if the centre.
The congregation sold their home of 20 years, a converted warehouse in nearby Cricklewood Lane, for a healthy profit to property developers after becoming concerned at the prospect of a large block of flats being built next door.
They used the £4.5million generated from the sale, along with their reserves, to purchase the Hippodrome building at auction for £5.25m.
Mr Alkazemi explained that rather than a mosque, they had established an Islamic centre, in order to avoid religious restrictions on who could use the building.
He said: “A lot of negative things were written online. I’m disappointed. We see people from this area saying ‘Oh, Muslims — they are bad guys’.
“But if you don’t know me, please don’t say nasty things. Please come and talk to us. We’re surprised that people who don’t know us talk in this way.
“We were not apprehensive about coming to Golders Green. England is for all, and all are for England. You hear phrases like social cohesion, inter-faith, integration — all these nice words will only come about when we get to know each other.
“We plan on holding other programmes, like lectures and English classes for recent migrants to this country.
“We are Shia Muslims, who follow the 12th successor of the Prophet. Many in the congregation are of Iraqi heritage, although it is very mixed.
“Depending on the festival the numbers will vary. For Ramadan or Eid it could be between 300 and 500 people, but most of the time it won’t be that many.
“Golders Green is a mainly Jewish area, and we respect that. Golders Green, Cricklewood, Brent Cross — they’re all part of London. Maybe in five years’ time, migrants from a certain country will come to a particular area. That’s just a part of London.
“Yes, there may be a conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East. But that should not and will not affect how we treat our neighbours.
“The opposition doesn’t hurt us. We have open doors for anyone who walks in asking for help, regardless of what they are wearing and who they are.”