Charlotte Bibby | Erkin “Egg” Guney
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Erkin “Egg” Guney

March 2017

 

In 1958 Egg’s father, Ramadan Guney, a Turkish Cypriot and devout Muslim, was exiled and ended up in Britain and in 1977 founded the Masjid Ramadan Mosque, a former synagogue in Dalston, which became the UK’s first Turkish Mosque. Egg was born and raised in London, and married his Jewish wife Melanie at a young age, before going on to have three children and running a number of successful businesses.

 

In 1996 Egg was sentenced to 14 years in jail in 1996, but was released in 2003 based on evidence of police corruption. You can read more about this case at erkinguney.com

 

Egg’s father, Ramadan died under suspicious circumstances in 2006, leaving no official will, which resulted in a large share of his estate being awarded to his ex-girlfriend Diane Holliday. A legal battle for the estate continues, and in 2009 Egg was accused and later found innocent of the attempted murder of Holliday.

 

Despite losing the family cemetery, Egg retained ownership of the Masjid Ramadan Mosque, and for the last three years has been running, and paying for its upkeep, and eventually hopes to turn into a universal, multicultural healing centre.

 

Click below to scroll through extracts from our interview.

 

I inherited this position. I really didn’t want to be running a Mosque because we don’t need a book to tell us how to be human beings. I like the way the Quran’s message is written, but it’s taken out of context and misinterpreted by very ignorant people. If they don’t have any life skills or any wisdom, or any experience, they will not interpret the message the way it’s supposed to be interpreted, and so that’s what happens; it gets diluted by someone’s view of what they believe that means. I haven’t read the Quran, I haven’t read any book because I don’t want to be contaminated by my personal beliefs. I insist on my morals and my principles and my integrity; if you don’t have those as foundations you don’t have anything to build on anyway. So, that’s what’s brought me here. I got here and thought, “oh I’m really gonna make a pig’s ear of this”. I’m a funeral director, I’ve got a responsibility of the last journey and I’m honoured and proud to do that. For me it’s quite a special thing and I’m honoured we consider, in our culture, for anyone to play a part, even if they put their finger on the coffin, it’s an honour. To be a part of that spiritual last journey, that’s my job, that’s my first job. How I got into that position, that was my dad. That was something that I never envisioned that I was going to ever be that person. I grew up in the fast lane, literally I had a company called Fast Lanes, I was doing stereos, phones, alarms, cars, all that kind of stuff, and now I’m looking after a Mosque which I just didn’t see coming. Certainly not on their terms. So my life’s journey has brought me to being in the position that I can be the person that makes the rules, and the influence, as to how this should be, to modernise, and bring it to a level where people accept it. Not to be brainwashed. Not to say “if you don’t do it this way, then you’re going to go to hell”.

I had a full on out of body experience 25 years ago, and that’s what I saw, and it wasn’t induced by any drugs. I was conscious, awake, I was present in two places, and I stand by that experience, and they sent me back. He said “you gotta come back”. I went to the light and I got to this beautiful place, I was overwhelmed, I was happy, euphoric… it was just beautiful, and, I promise you it wasn’t induced by any drugs. It was a natural, beautiful feeling, and I didn’t want to come back. He said “you’ve got to go back”. I said “I don’t want to come back”. He says “you’ve got to go back”. I said “well, why’ve you brought me here if you’re going to send me back? You’ve brought me a long way.” He said “we brought to hear to show you’ve got to go back, your work ain’t done”. I went jolting back into my body, so that was my spiritual awakening, which was a fantastic thing. I came back my telepathy, my ability to do things, and overcome things was just amazing.

In fact I have upset a few people. I did kick out the Imam because he was nicking money, I did bring in a black Imam. They didn’t want to pray behind him cuz he was black. So I said to the community, if you aren’t alright to pray behind him, you’re at the wrong Mosque. Because if you can’t pray behind this black Imam, who’s educated in Egypt, who studied six years, who reads the Quran, he’s got a beautiful voice, how do you feel about my gay daughter and my Jewish wife? If you don’t like him, then you’re in the wrong place. So it wasn’t hard for me. “There’s a Mosque down there, there’s a Mosque down there. See you later. “

 

We’re setting the prescience as to what a true, what this building should be, what this Mosque is. What a true Muslim should be. And a true Muslim is just a good human being. They should not be judgemental and should respect everybody’s path, whatever their religion. I don’t say “what religion are you, oh I can’t talk to you”. It’s bullshit, man. I come from a mixed culture, I don’t have any problems with anybody walking up and down this road. I don’t look at em and go “ugh you’re white, ugh you’re black, you’re this, or you’re that” because… it’s just going nowhere. I have had more opposition from my own because they say “this ain’t the way we do things”, maybe you need to lighten up a little bit mate, because the way you have been doing things is a little bit strange. When you say to me you can’t pray behind this man because he’s black, then you’re the one with issues.

 

I think that’s the problem we’ve got with a lot of religions, they brainwash and manipulate if you’ve got the wrong person in that position. And I think that is the key, you need to find someone that’s accepting of everybody, not be judgemental, whether they’re gay, black, Jewish, pink, red, whatever. Our job, in this environment is to be there to listen, to be peaceful and loving and try and create a safe space for people to come and genuinely be, that’s what a true Muslim should be. Doesn’t discriminate, accepts everybody for who or what they are, and try and be an open person, without being judgemental.

I’ve been in the position where an Imam from down the road say to a prisoner, “I had a dream last night, I spoke to Allah, and he told me to tell you, you’ve got to give me £500 to buy two lamb to slaughter and if you don’t you’re going to go to hell”. The man is telling me this, I said “really?”. He said “yeah, if I don’t give him the money then I’m going to go to hell”. I said “what’d you do?” He said “I gave him the money”. I said “you’re mad, this is blackmail. This is fear.” That’s not Islam. That’s someone in that position taking advantage of someone very vulnerable, and giving that poor person sleepless nights because he thinks he’s not going to get to heaven if he don’t pay for two lambs.

I do want to create a universal, multicultural healing centre. I am going to do that. I’m trying not to breech the five times a day prayer. We’re not open all night long because they don’t come, they only turn up on the Friday to pray, because they think “Friday, I’m going to be a good Muslim”. Thankfully we’ve got a lot of good people that come on a Friday, who are not judgemental, they do come and pray, the rest of the week they’re working. The buildings empty so it needs other usages to bring in… I mean it’s a beautiful space, what would be wrong with doing yoga in the time that it’s not being used? It just don’t make any other sense other than it’s going to be a benefit to the community, to the building, financially, and you’re building bridges with communities. But yoga, as I understand it, the sound of “Om” is forbidden in the Mosque. Well, why? Cuz they go ‘Om’? Because they don’t believe? Because there’s a certain aspect of their God’s? Alright, don’t take it on board. It ain’t gonna effect you when you go home to sleep at night. You ain’t paying the bills. You’re still going to do your five times a day prayer. I’m not prepared to divulge into their issues to affect my judgement, and that’s where people need to understand, they need to respect other people’s beliefs and journeys and not to contaminate and cross-contaminate, and that way you won’t have a problem, as long as you’re a good person, and you’re doing the right thing. Don’t come and tell me off because I’m allowing this group to do yoga because you don’t agree because the next step is this doors going to be shut and you’ll have no place to pray, because of your ignorance. You got to try and undo the knots slowly, it’s a bit of a challenge, but I don’t mind a challenge.