Built by reverted Jew, UK’s oldest mosque gets highest conservation status

Built by reverted Jew, UK’s oldest mosque gets highest conservation status

LONDON: Britain’s mosques were given special listed status Tuesday in recognition of their architectural and historic importance, in a move a government minister said celebrated “the rich heritage of Muslim communities in England”.

Shah Jahan Mosque, the country’s first purpose-built mosque given the highest conservation status and it becomes the only Grade I listed mosque in the country.

Opened in Woking, Surrey, a town south-west of London, Shah Jahan Mosque was upgraded on Tuesday from Grade II to Grade I, a ranking shared with sites such as royal residence Buckingham Palace.

Dates back to 1889, the Shah Jahan Mosque was commissioned by Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, a Hungarian-Jewish linguist who converted to Islam while working as a linguist in British India and was “partly funded by the Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, the female ruler of the Indian princely state of Bhopal”.

After the death of Dr Leitner, the England’s oldest mosque fell out of use, however, it was restored and revived by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, an Indian lawyer.

The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre in Regent’s Park, central London is newly listed at Grade II* building by the government’s culture department.

The special Grade II status is awarded to just 5.8 percent of approximately 500,000 listed buildings in England, marking them out as particularly important sites and giving them greater protection.

“By listing these beautiful mosques, we are not only preserving important places of worship, but also celebrating the rich heritage of Muslim communities in England,” said Heritage Minister Michael Ellis.

The mosques were ‘exceptional places of worship’, said Duncan Wilson, Historic England chief executive. ‘Through listing we are celebrating some of our most significant examples of Islamic heritage from the stunning Shah Jahan in Woking, the first purpose-built mosque in the country, to the landmark London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park.’

Although there are around 1,500 mosques in Britain, fewer than 20 percent are purpose-built according to Heritage England, which compiles the listings.

AFP inputs