Many years ago I had a very difficult time in my life. I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown when I encountered the mosque in South Woodford. The classes and the community carried me through the most difficult part of my life. Now, I voluntarily teach in classes of 30 to 40 ladies per week. A number of the ladies who attend my class are also going through some sort of hardship in their lives. Coming to the classes and having a consoling friendship is carrying them through, just as it did for me.

Then there are after-school education classes for children. Instead of indulging in all kinds of mischief on the streets, or being glued to their technology, children come to the mosque to learn about their faith, manners, discipline and how to play a role in society and look after each other. They are so cramped that curtains are being used to separate classes. Schools and tuition centres wouldn’t be shut down due to traffic. Why is the centre being restricted?

Once a week there is a ladies-only exercise class. Following that, there is a toddler group where young mothers have some social recreation while toddlers play. Simultaneously, there is a senior citizens' coffee morning. Quite a few are living alone, since their partners have passed away. Others have carer responsibilities and come for a break.

One local resident wrote an email saying: “Go to some industrial area because we could not care less about you.”

Do you think that is fair or feasible? Many of the elderly users have limited mobility or come by public transport. Do you think they would be able to go to a far off place?

In addition, the mosque provides other beneficial services to the community, such as educational meetings about cancer, diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis and dementia. They have engaged in fundraising for local charities including Macmillan Nurses, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research, as well as food parcels to be sent to international disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and the Indonesian tsunami.

The mosque also organises the Three-Faith Forum, promoting cohesion and tolerance within the community. We have been frequently visited by local primary schools as part of their religious education lessons.

We are in a diverse area. There is a Salvation Army hall a few yards away, a church in George Lane, another church in Hermon Hill, a school on the road behind, a pub on the corner, a busy high street both ways, and a train station on our doorstep. None of these other amenities are asked to relocate because of usage. Why is this one being treated so harshly? We provide a valuable service to the community, of all ages. We are tax-paying citizens of the borough, who work and live and contribute here. Do we not have a right to have a place where we can meet, learn, exercise, and pull our spiritual life together to combat the pressures of life?

We send our greetings and wishes to our neighbours on every Christmas and New Year. We periodically invite them to come and visit our mosque and centre, to see how it is providing a valuable service to the community.

We are short of space for all the activities we provide due to ongoing need. We therefore ask for your support in enabling the expansion.

Qaissra Sheikh

Local resident and teacher at South Woodford Mosque