Recently, social media pages and media outlets have been circulating a claim that a British Muslim businessman named Asif Aziz purchased the historic "Trocadero" building in London and transformed it into a three-story mosque and Islamic library.
The London Trocadero, situated in the heart of the West End, was a grand hub of leisure, shopping, and entertainment. Originally established in the 1700s, this location has undergone significant changes over time, earning a reputation for adapting to the evolving trends. Today, it stands as an iconic landmark renowned for offering top-notch entertainment options and regularly hosting cultural events.
The Trocadero complex in London had its beginnings as a restaurant back in 1896, which ceased operations in 1965. It underwent a revival in 1984, transforming into an exhibition and entertainment space. It gained fame for its SegaWorld attractions, which catered to video game enthusiasts and were introduced in 1996. These attractions were later scaled down and rebranded as "Funland" before ultimately closing down in 2011. A portion of the building was repurposed as a hotel in 2020.
During the 1980s and 1990s, it became a tourist destination, housing a cinema hall, a shopping center, and facilities for entertainment and electronic games. It remained in this state until it was sold in 2005 to "Criterion Capital," a company owned by Asif Aziz.
Who Is Asif Aziz?
Asif Aziz is a Muslim billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist based in London. He was born in Malawi in 1967.
He holds the position of founder and Chief Executive at Criterion Capital, a company renowned for its ownership and management of significant landmarks, including the London Trocadero and the Criterion Building situated at Piccadilly Circus. Moreover, Aziz is the initiator of the Aziz Foundation, a family-oriented charitable organization.
Criterion Capital’s Acquisition of Trocadero
"Criterion Capital," owned by Asif Aziz, is active in the field of real estate asset management. It engages in property identification, acquisition, and management on behalf of investors. In 2005, the company purchased the "Trocadero" building for £225 million.
Through their dedication, innovative approach, and financial commitment, the building has been transformed into a prominent symbol at Piccadilly Circus. It now houses several beloved recreational establishments in the city, such as the flagship Picture House Cinema, the FIVE GUYS burger restaurant, the popular Chinese eatery Haidilao Hot Pot, and a nostalgic attraction from the 90s, the Crystal Maze experience.
During the year 2020, the hotel not only provided lodging for 740 rooms but also included advanced facilities like a state-of-the-art fitness center, a fully equipped yoga studio, a contemporary lounge, and a collaborative workspace. Additionally, it boasted a splendid rooftop bar and restaurant area, standing out as one of the largest of its kind in Europe. This elevated retreat has the capacity to comfortably accommodate over a thousand guests at once.
The "Aziz Foundation" was only established in 2015, a decade after the building's purchase. Furthermore, it wasn't until the year 2020 that they submitted a request for allocating a prayer space within the premises.
Trocadero Mosque Plans Withdrawn
In 2020, the Aziz Foundation, a charitable organization focused on Islamic education, presented proposals to convert two basement floors into a mosque capable of accommodating up to 1,000 worshippers.
At the time of the proposal, the Islamic education charity stated that establishing a mosque would help address the lack of prayer spaces in a location where there was a noticeable deficiency in places of worship.
Following this submission, Westminster City Council received a notable response, with 6,100 comments expressing support and 2,800 expressing objections. Notably, a significant portion of the objections were fueld by racism and islamophobia.
In light of the racially motivated objections, the foundation decided to withdraw its proposal within the same year.
Trocadero's Islamic Community Center Proposal Accepted
Approved by Westminster City Council, the Trocadero is set to house a prayer space and facilities for local community initiatives. The entrance on Rupert Street will be utilized by the Piccadilly Community Centre.
The Aziz Foundation highlighted the importance of the center for Muslims residing, working, and visiting the vicinity. The Grade II-listed building's ground floor, upper, and lower basements, formerly occupied by a Metro cinema until 2006, will be utilized.
In addition to offering a dedicated prayer area, the Aziz Foundation emphasized the center's potential to foster essential interfaith dialogue.
The Aziz Foundation’s Clarification Report
On July 17, the Aziz Foundation strongly criticized the dissemination of inaccurate information that has fueled hate, division, and Islamophobia against them.
Several newspapers today have employed misleading headlines while reporting on the planning permission granted by Westminster City Council, for the establishment of a Piccadilly Community Centre.
"The factually incorrect and grossly exaggerated headlines have either suggested that the entire Trocadero building is being converted into a mosque or that a three-story mosque is being constructed. Both are false."
The foundation specifically mentioned "The Sun," "The Telegraph," and "Daily Mail," and “Express” which, according to the foundation, deliberately sensationalized their headlines.
Furthermore, the foundation emphasized that the Center, situated within the unused basement area of the Trocadero, will play an essential role for Muslims employed, visiting, and residing in the vicinity, for whom prayer holds profound significance. Alongside facilitating a dedicated prayer space, the Center's establishment is expected to foster crucial interfaith conversations. This endeavor aims to unite faith communities and local groups by utilizing accessible space and promoting collective engagement.
The foundation also clarified that this space, encompassing less than 1.5% of the building, has been designed to address local needs. The prayer area will be accessible on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.