London mosque launches legal case to be taken off terrorism database

#Islamophobia

Finsbury Park Mosque wants Thomson Reuters to completely remove their name from database used by banks to risk assess clients

People walk past Finsbury Park Mosque during a mosques open day in London on 1 February, 2015 (AFP)
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Sunday 6 March 2016 18:51 UTC
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A prominent London mosque on Friday launched a legal case to be removed from a terrorism risk database used by 49 of the world’s biggest 50 banks.

Finsbury Park Mosque was among several British Muslim organisations who had their bank accounts closed down by HSBC in 2014.

HSBC did not disclose the reason for the account closures but in July 2015 Middle East Eye journalist Peter Oborne uncovered that the terrorism risk database World Check, which is owned by Thomson Reuters, listed Finsbury Park Mosque as a terrorist organisation.

After months of trying to have the mosque taken off the database, lawyers have now filed a case with the London High Court to sue for defamation and claim damages against Thomson Reuters.

“What is important for us is to clear the name of the mosque,” Mohammed Kozbar, Finsbury Park Mosque chairperson, told MEE.

Kozbar said Thomson Reuters had changed the status of the mosque from being terrorist to simply an “organisation” on the database. But he said that the mere fact of being on the database impacted the mosque’s reputation.

“We are not a terrorist organisation and we must not be on any list,” he added.

As well as being removed from the database the mosque is seeking an apology from Thomson Reuters.

Finsbury Park Mosque has dramatically changed its image since being taken over from the radical cleric Abu Hamza in 2003.

Under the management led by Kozbar, the mosque has changed from being viewed as a radicalised mosque to a place that serves not only Muslims but the community at large.

The impact of having their bank account closed had not just made it harder for the mosque to function, it had also hurt its reputation, according to Kozbar.

“They damaged our reputation and our credibility which we have been trying to build over the past decade,” he said. “It’s not fair to the mosque – and the community – to be labelled as terrorists.”

After HSBC closed their account, the mosque managed to open another with the small Al Rayan bank. But the mosque hopes to open an account with a “high street bank” if they can secure removal from the Thomson Reuters World Check database.

Solicitors firm Farooq Bajwa & Co, who are representing the mosque, said they believed they would win the legal case against Thomson Reuters.

“We are very confident that we have a strong case,” solicitor Mujeeb Gallagher told MEE.

Kozbar said it was important for the mosque to clear its name so its community work was not negatively impacted.

On Friday morning, Kozbar said the mosque had hosted a large group of Muslim women who spoke to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is also the local MP, local officials and police about an increase in anti-Muslim attacks on public transport in London.

“This is our community work and we don’t want our reputation to be affected by Thomson Reuters,” he said.

Thomson Reuters did not respond to calls for comment at the time of publication.