Documenting the History and Heritage of the Muslim Community in Croydon

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The Muslim Community is History
***Press Release - 21/02/2012***

The Muslim Community (in Croydon) is History

On Friday 17th February 2012 the Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Graham Bass was handed a box labelled 'For Archiving'.

During a special viewing of the Tale of Croydon Mosque Exhibition which is currently running at the Museum of Croydon, the Mayor accepted on behalf of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service over 300 documents, newspaper articles and photographs relating to over 40 years of the Muslim community in Croydon.

Guests included Rachel Hasted from English Heritage, the Borough Commander Dave Musker, Councillor Bernadette Khan, Councillor Vidhi Mohan, Croydon's Borough Archivist Chris Bennett, and members of the heritage and community sector.

At the event young people explored Muslim heritage in Britain and spoke of Abdul Karim, Queen Victoria's munshi; Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first English women the go on Hajj in 1933; and Dr Lietner who built Woking Mosque, the first purpose built mosques in the UK in 1889.

A young volunteer went on to explain the development of Croydon Mosque from its humble beginnings in a basement room on Derby Road, West Croydon, to a former Council office on Wellesley Road, to the current purpose built building at 525 London Road.

Mobeen Butt, from Asian Youth Alliance (AYA), the community organisation behind the event and exhibition, explained the project had come about when in 2010 he popped into the archives and asked to see material on the Muslim community. To his disappointment there wasn't much. So he asked the Museum of Croydon and the Local Studies Library and Archives Service if they would support a project that would collect material to be archived. This partnership successfully secured a Your Heritage grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in December 2010.

The Muslim Heritage in Croydon project has taken over a thousand photographs covering five places of worship, recorded 20 oral histories, and collected over 200 documents, photographs and memorabilia. Over 60 volunteers have given in excess of 2,000 hours of their time to the project.

The centre piece to the project has been the Tale of Croydon Mosque exhibition which uses technologies like augmented reality and computer gaming to engage new audiences to heritage. The exhibition also includes a traditional display of photographs, plans, newspaper articles and oral histories.

At the event Mr Butt pleaded for minority communities to record and keep safe their heritage. He explained when he was young he felt he wasn't being taught about his history. "Asians, Blacks, Muslims didn't seem to exist in this history".
He believes that anyone can make history, they just "need to record it and place it somewhere safe where others can find it".

This would then make it easier for the next generation of historians and history teachers to research and teach relevant history. "History that can empower, build self-esteem and allow young people to know where they and their families have come from, so we can all start growing roots, and feeling more part of the society that we all live in."

Rachel Hasted, Head of Social Inclusion and Diversity at English Heritage stated "we absolutely support this kind of work at local level because without it our understanding of the national heritage simply cannot be sustained."

"Everything that Mobeen has said about the need to make sure that that information is in the archives and in the museums for the next generation is absolutely right."

"It ensures too that the voices of those people who make history, in this case those who founded and developed an important faith centre, are captured forever."

She added, "At the moment I think it's true to say that a lot of information about mosque building nationally is scattered and much is still in private hands. In the future, historians will be able to rely on the archives produced by projects like this to map the development of mosques in England, and this is why it is so important that the role model that this project can be, is well known, and is encouraged".

Chris Bennett, Croydon's Borough Archivist thanked Mobeen for his vision and AYA's young volunteers for their professionalism. Adding, "As a project that sought to work with young people to explore, record, and celebrate the contribution of the Muslim community to Croydon's history, it ideally suited our mission to collect and preserve long term knowledge of those communities in our collections; bring these under represented histories to a wider audience and make them available through our galleries and the archives to foster a greater understanding and community cohesion".

"We would like to use it particularly as a spur for communities to look at the material they hold and to consider placing it here. Croydon's history continues to be written every day and it is only with the support and awareness of everyone in the community that we can continue to build the collections for future generations."

AYA is collecting material related to the Muslim community in Croydon, if you have any old photographs, letters, home videos or memorabilia that you would like to deposit, please email or contact them through the website.

The Tale of Croydon Mosque exhibition is part of the Muslim Heritage in Croydon project which has been developed and delivered by Asian Youth Alliance an organisation specialising in youth, community and digital engagement. It is supported by the Museum of Croydon and Croydon Local Studies Library & Archives Service, and funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The exhibition is on until 9th March at the Museum of Croydon.

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