FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Who funded the mosque project and how long did it take to build?
The mosque was funded by over 10,000 private and public local and international donations and has been in the making since the land was purchased in February 2008. The main donor has been a consortium of government agencies in the Republic of Turkey, together with a Turkish private company (Yapi Merkezi), and the Qatar National Fund. The land for the mosque was purchased in 2008 and it officially opened its doors to the public on 24 April 2019.
2. Were the contractors local?
Where possible we have made use of local contractors and businesses. Our Main Contractor was Gilbert-Ash Limited of Belfast; the engineered timber components were manufactured from sustainably-harvested spruce by Blumer-Lehmann AG of Gossau (Switzerland).
3. Who is the mosque run by?
The day-to-day management of the mosque is carried out by male and female staff and volunteers under the guidance of the mosque director (post currently vacant). The mosque’s principal imam is Dr Sejad Mekić, a British citizen of Bosnian origin who holds a PhD from SOAS, University of London. He is assisted by imam Ali Tos, who was born in Konya, Turkey, and holds an MA in Religious Studies from Howard University (USA). The Cambridge Mosque Trust, a registered charity, is chaired by Professor Tim Winter, a well-known scholar and British Muslim convert. The Patron of the project is Yusuf Islam, also known as the popular singer Cat Stevens. The Cambridge Mosque Trust board also includes a minority of trustees nominated by the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, but is independent in its policies. Policies are also shaped by the annual meeting of our Life Members, around eighty percent of whom are Cambridge residents.
4. Is an eco-mosque a new idea?
Eco-mosques are increasingly common in Morocco and Indonesia, but the Cambridge Central Mosque is Europe’s first eco-mosque and has a zero carbon footprint. Every detail of the mosque is designed to minimize environmental impact. Its green features include air-source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling, sedum roofs, photo-voltaic arrays and passive ventilation. The mosque, with its forest-like interior, pays homage to Islam’s emphasis on the sanctity of the natural world and the commandment to avoid waste and extravagance.
5. Is this a Shia or Sunni mosque?
The mosque is non-denominational and welcomes Muslims of all backgrounds, Sunni, Shi’i, or other. For instance, the 16 pillars found in the main-prayer hall symbolize the 12 imams of Shia tradition and the 4 schools of thought of the Sunni practice. Sermons and lectures are inclusive and given in classical Arabic and English only. The mosque does not belong to any orientation or movement.
6. Where are the minarets?
Islam does not have a specific directive about the need for a minaret to broadcast the call to prayer. Hence the call to prayer (adhan) in Cambridge is given only inside the building; there are no external loudspeakers.
7. What measures are in place to make the local community feel welcome and safe?
The mosque has been a community project at every stage of its development. Residents’ concerns about parking led to the inclusion of a 76-space underground car park in the design. This has significantly reduced parking pressure around other mosques in Cambridge. A garden with benches for all the local community to enjoy is located at the mosque’s entrance. Other public areas including the cafeteria and teaching space are designed to be hospitable spaces for the wider community whether or not they are Muslims.
There are trained security personnel on site whose job is to monitor the premises, the boundaries, and access to and from the car park through regular patrolling and observing our CCTV and other alarm systems. The mosque is normally open to visitors from 12 pm – 7:30 pm. Before entering the mosque garden all visitors are requested to introduce themselves to the custodian in the reception booth.
8. Why does the mosque have a separate area for women?
Muslim cultures differ considerably on the inclusion of women in mosque spaces. There is a general concern, however, that the genders should be separated to reduce the natural possibility of distraction during worship. Women’s sections have evolved over time as a result of pragmatic customary practices. A separate space in our mosque allows women with young children to come and go without disturbing the prayers of others. The mosque aims to be regarded as one of the leading gender-inclusive mosques in the UK. For example, three separate sections are available for women to use depending on their preference. The existing screen or partition was designed after consulting with local female mosque users and features different heights allowing the women themselves to choose their preferred seclusion levels, from high to waist-height to a central area with no screen at all. The screen can also be moved backwards and forwards according to the gender ratios.
9. What are the mosque’s politics?
The Cambridge Central Mosque is independent of any political direction. To maintain inclusivity it takes no position on any political issue, and sermons are non-political.
10. Who are the Muslims of Cambridge?
Muslims have been gathering to worship in Cambridge for over a hundred years. The first society to bring together Muslims was the Cambridge Majlis, established for Indian students in 1891. In 1962 Friday congregational prayers began to be held in the Old Reader in Pembroke College. A small mosque on Mawson Road was opened in 1984. There are also five smaller mosques, and two University prayer rooms. Census figures indicate a Muslim population in the Cambridge area of around six thousand. The largest group by ethnic origin is Bangladeshi (38%). There are also substantial numbers of Muslims of Arabic, Turkish, Nigerian, Pakistani and Iranian origin. Ten percent of Cambridge Muslims are of ‘white’ origin.
(Header image courtesy of Morley von Sternberg)