News & Islam News Maryam Centre – first anniversary of the opening On 4 July 2013 the nine-storey Maryam Centre opened to the public, just in time for the busy month of Ramadan. This was a tremendous achievement for a community that only nine years earlier had created the landmark London Muslim Centre. A year has passed, and we can reflect on our amazing achievements. The Best Facilities for Women The most immediate benefit of the Maryam Centre has been the wonderful new facilities for women. These include a dedicated prayer hall with separate breakout rooms, great new ablutions, buggy parks, a large meeting room, a multipurpose hall, project offices, several classrooms, and a brand new fitness centre. Access has greatly improved for the old and disabled. Every evening in Ramadan women poured into the new facilities in unprecedented numbers, using all the available space, and supported by teams of volunteers. The experience of the Friday prayer has been transformed. No longer cramped and difficult to access, there’s now more than enough space, so numbers have increased to at least 600 every week. Women’s Services The Maryam Centre plays a pivotal role in providing key services to the community. The Islamic counselling service available to women has been hugely successful. Muslim Aid has funded and supported this service, as it appreciates the need to utilise some of its resources at home as well as abroad. Women in the community are affected by issues such as health conditions, depression and marital problems. The counselling service helps to counteract some of those problems, benefiting service users who sometimes are unable to reach out to mainstream services. The Muslim Women’s Collective (MWC) has recently relocated to the Maryam Centre. The organisation was established in 2007 with support from the local authority, and in 2010 it became a non-profit organisation. The MWC is an umbrella organisation, with several local charities and non-profit organisations as its members, and works to support both its members and the community of Tower Hamlets. Much of its work is to champion women’s issues throughout Tower Hamlets, and more recently Islington, with a focus on tackling worklessness, domestic abuse and mental ill-health, and improving the environment. It is the only women’s network of its kind in the borough, and the MWC, despite its name, supports both Muslim and non-Muslim women, their children and families. Visitor Centre Overlooking the new main prayer hall, the Visitor Centre has a gallery view, filming points for the media, a meeting room and exhibition space. This has made it much easier and more comfortable for visitors to see what’s going on. Non-Muslim visitors attending funerals can now observe the funeral prayers, and more easily meet with family members. A funeral for a young police officer was attended by more than one hundred of his colleagues in dress uniform, who were able to pay their respects and share in the solemnity of the occasion. The Visitor Centre hosted Ofxam’s ‘Gaza – through my eyes’, an exhibition of photographs taken by children in Gaza who had been given cameras to capture aspects of their daily lives. It is an ideal location for hosting school and student groups, as well as our many visitors from overseas. One of the highlights of any visit is the new observation beehive, which can be safely observed behind glass in our new link. Visitors have included professional footballers Abou Diaby and Freddie Oumar Kanouté, comedian and actor Russell Brand, the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegović and the CEO of the National Archives, Clem Brohier. Health & Fitness Centre for Women On the 6th floor of the Maryam Centre is the newly opened health and fitness centre for women. Hayaa Fitness originally opened in 2005, providing fitness and health services, whilst helping users adhere to their faith and cultural sensitivities. Over the years Hayaa has steadily helped increase the health and fitness of the local community, offering a dedicated service at discounted rates. The new fitness centre is now open and is providing better health and fitness services in the community for women. The Maryam Centre aspires to be a world class women’s centre and the newly opened fitness centre contributes to those ideals, to make health services accessible to all. Women in Asian communities have naturally stayed away from mainstream fitness services, because of the cultural and faith based barriers – but now the service is available – with a women’s dedicated prayer hall on the 2nd floor of the Maryam Centre. The new fitness centre boasts, a state-of-the-art gym fully-kitted out with the latest equipment; fitness studio with aerobic classes; a brand new sauna; and a hair salon and cupping services. Maryam Academy Recruitment for a Head of School has started for the Maryam Academy. This secondary school for girls is due to open in September 2015. The community has seen a big surge in demand for Islamic secondary schools. Based on the success of the London East Academy, one of the highest achieving schools in the borough, we hope to replicate the same through the Maryam Academy. The past year has been very exciting and busy! We hope to keep members of the congregation updated with all the latest developments, until then stay tuned for more.