The filmmaker who spent eight months inside the UK’s biggest mosque

Filmmakers were given eight months to document life at the East London Mosque in Whitechapel. Their aim was to capture the reality of life for Muslims who worship there, away from the news headlines about radicalisation. Key moments of Welcome to the Mosque were documented from the rituals of washing before Friday prayers to preparing Muslim couples for marriage.

“I was shocked to learn that over 7,000 people fill its walls to pray every Friday morning, and more than two million pass through its doors every year, ” says the man behind it, Robb Leech.

While filming, two major news stories broke which triggered fresh questions about the links between Islam and extremism: the Charlie Hebdo attack in France and the three London schoolgirls who left Britain to join Islamic State jihadists in Syria. Leech explores the responses to those events. He captures the frantic first phone call to the mosque from a distraught sister of one of the girls – and travels to Istanbul with the families to try to track them down.

Ultimately, Robb says the film has challenged his perceptions and hopes it will impact on others too “because at the moment, the word ‘extremism’ comes up along with their name and immediately people just assume they are radicalising people.”

“I found a fascinating and intriguing world that sometimes surprised me and sometimes shocked me but ultimately I think my perspective was changed.”

And Robb says this film “is fair, because it’s a film about a mosque and the people who go to the mosque”.