Europe's largest mosque opened

Western Europe's largest mosque was today hailed as a religious centre for the 21st century.

The mosque in Morden, south London, can hold up to 10,000 worshippers and was built at a cost of £15 million by Britain's Ahmadi Muslims who opened London's first mosque nearly 80 years ago.

Rafiq Ahmed Hayat, national UK president of the community, said that in a period when there was much information about Islam in the world the new mosque would promote peace.

He added: "When we decided we were going to build this mosque we felt we wanted a building for the 21st century.

"What I feel we have achieved here is a modern building that takes in the best modern architecture and maintains all the traditional features of a mosque."

An inauguration ceremony for the new religious centre will be held tomorrow when the worldwide supreme head of the community, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, holds Friday prayers.

British devotees of the community, which condemns any form of extremism and has peacefully co-existed and integrated in Britain for nearly a century, will be joined by representatives from countries worldwide filling the mosque to capacity.

Mr Hayat added: "Islam has come under a lot of criticism - there's a lot of Islamic phobia.

"One of the thing we want to do is redress this imbalance.

"The basic tenet of Islam is that of peace and the tenet of this mosque is to propagate that tenet throughout the world.

"Tomorrow we will release some white doves to symbolise peace."

The new mosque is adorned with a 15.5 metre dome and also has a 35 metre tall minaret overlooking the site.

Built on a disused dairy bottling plant just outside the town centre the main mosque has room for 6,000 worshippers and surrounding ancillary buildings can hold about 4,000 others.

The money raised for the project was from small donations from the Ahmadi community and some contributions from overseas believers. The total cost of the scheme, begun in 2001, including purchasing the site was £15 million.

Once engineers and construction workers had completed the shell of the building a team of volunteers took over to complete the work.

Today helpers were working flat out to complete the internal fabric of the mosque and outside landscaping ahead of tomorrow's inauguration.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadian, India, in March 1889.

In a little over a century the community has spread to 174 countries, with 200 million followers from around the world.