The North London Central Mosque was founded in 1990 by mostly Bangladeshi worshipers. Prince Charles allegedly supported the project, after touring the shabby neighborhood in the early 1980s. According to the mosque's trustees, it is "widely known" that King Fahd of Saudi Arabia provided over €1 million to fund the construction, the total cost of which was estimated at €2.3 million. The three-story, redbrick mosque has prayer halls to accommodate around 1,500 men, a warren of offices, a shop and, in the basement, a smaller prayer hall with room for 100 women.
Toward the end of 1996, the anti-Western cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri became a preacher at the mosque, an appointment that upset many regular worshipers. In 1998 the trustees, using the mosque's status as a charity, moved to have Abu Hamza stopped from preaching because of his fundamentalist views. Several prominent terrorist suspects are known to have visited or stayed at the mosque, including Djamel Beghal, who was linked to an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the U.S. embassy in Paris, shoe bomber Richard Reid and suspected 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui. In April of last year, the Charity Commission imposed a preaching ban on Abu Hamza, and more recently threatened to remove him, because many of his statements "were of such an extreme and political nature as to conflict with [the mosque's] charitable status."
"America is a crazy superpower and what was done was done in self-defense," he said after the Sept. 11 attacks. Abu Hamza has repeatedly defied the ban, including staging one event "A Towering Day in History" to mark the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.