CAIRO – Getting support of the Irish Deputy First Minister, Belfast Muslim community has called on the government to provide the funding necessary for a land plot to host the country’s first mosque.
“It’s not doing them a favor. It’s giving them back some of their contributions that they have provided in tax and services within the Northern Ireland community,” Saeb Shaath, a member of Belfast’s Islamic Centre, told the Daily Mirror on Wednesday, June 11.
According the city's Muslims, the urgently needed mosque will fill an important void by offering a worship place and cultural centre for the growing Muslim population.
"It is a cultural centre that we are looking for and not just a mosque," Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, a spokesman for the Belfast Islamic Centre, said on BBC Radio’s Nolan Show.
"Somewhere we could have our social activities like mother and toddler groups, like cookery, like youth clubs and so on.
"And there is a huge demand for it. The Muslim population is growing in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, but especially in south Belfast."
Appealing for the government to grant his community a land plot, Al-Wazzan stressed that Muslims are ready to provide the costs needed for the project construction.
“We will provide the funds to build the cultural centre but we need the land from the government," Al-Wazzan stated.
Efforts to promote harmony in Belfast have started earlier this month with an anti-racism rally which drew thousands of protesters.
The rallied crowds demanded a public apology from North Ireland first minister Peter Robinson for insulting the country’s Muslim population.
The controversy erupted last May when Pastor James McConnell of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in north Belfast told his congregation that “a new evil had arisen” and “there are cells of Muslims right throughout Britain”.
Wading into the controversy, Peter Robinson, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) first minister, supported McConnell’s claims in an interview with the Irish News newspaper.
In a bid to calm rising anger in North Ireland, Robinson issued a statement in which he apologized to Muslims who had been hurt or distressed by his comments.
Later on, he paid a visit to Belfast Islamic Center, offering a public apology to Muslims.
Along with the required land plot, Belfast's Muslim community called for using taxpayers’ money to pay for the land, building and maintenance of the mosque.
Being taxpayers, Muslims have the right to get their own worship place funded, argued Shaath, the member of Belfast’s Islamic Centre.
Shaath's appeal followed official's proposal to use taxpayer's money to fund the new mosque.
Calls from the Muslim community followed similar demanded made last Monday, June 9, by the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
According to McGuinness, he and First Minister Peter Robinson, have "absolutely accepted" that the 4,000-strong Muslim community "is entitled to a mosque, if a proper site can be found which is suitable for them".
"The First Minister is on the public record as saying that he believes that it would be appropriate, and I agree with him that, if necessary, public funds could be used to provide assistance with regard to the construction of a mosque in Belfast," McGuinness was quoted by the Belfast Telegraph.
However, the idea was rejected by the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV).
"Whatever flap Stormont may have got itself into over comments about the Muslim community, there can be no justification for the novel departure of taxpayers’ money being used to construct a mosque. Indeed it would be of questionable legality," said TUV leader Jim Allister.
"It is no function of the State to sponsor or fund any religious sect.”
Muslims make up 1.1 percent of the 4.5 million people in Ireland, but their ranks are swelling due to immigration, domestic births, and in some cases conversion.
Two decades ago, they numbered about 4,000.
A 2011 census recorded 49,204 Muslims, including nearly 12,000 school-aged children. The numbers represent a 51 percent increase since 2006.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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