12:42 November 30, 2021

A Golders Green religious community gathered to say goodbye to their usual meeting place at the racetrack.

Markaz El Tathgheef El Eslami (MTE – The Center for Islamic Enlightenment), leaves Golders Green racetrack after administrators sold the building to Hillsong Church.

Sunday’s rally (November 28) marked the end of an era after a long battle with Barnet’s advice over the use of the building.

A spokesperson for Markaz said: “It was nice to have the opportunity to thank our neighbors who welcomed us and supported us through difficult times.

“Although we no longer have our community center here, our community lives here and the friendships we have made with our neighbors will continue to grow.”

MTE paid £ 5.25million for the Grade II listed building in 2017 and planned to use it for lectures, seminars, youth activities, English lessons, after-school clubs and prayers.

In 2019, Barnet’s board initiated enforcement proceedings against MTE’s use of the site, arguing that “the use of the land as a cultural center, not including use as a church, to organize concerts, lectures, theater and dance festivals “was in violation of the authorization. . The owners appealed against this decision and ended up filing an urban planning application for the change of use from “church” to “place of worship”.

An anonymous campaign described the place as a “mega-mosque”, a description denied by the owners and other faith groups.

The racecourse was built in 1913 by Bertie Crewe as a 3,000-seat music hall and has hosted artists such as Danny La Rue and Marlene Dietrich. He was with the BBC from 1960 to 2003.

It remained abandoned until its takeover by the Christian group El Shaddai International Center in 2007.

Anne Clarke, London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, said: “We have all worked together to support the Markaz over the past few years and we think the friendships between us and them have really brought us closer.

“Today is bittersweet. It’s nice to see everyone but the Markaz will be sorely missed.

“We wish them all the best as they find a new home.”

Cllr Sara Conway, Head of the Labor Community at the Barnet Council, added: “We will truly miss this community, we are so sorry to see them go.

“We hope to keep in touch. They have been a wonderful addition to Barnet which works in all different faiths and communities.”