CAIRO - After years of delay and attacks, the Muslim community in Shelton suburb, in the English county of Staffordshire, have welcomed the holy fasting month of Ramadan in their long awaited mosque.
"It is a good success story," mosque chairman Amjid Wazir, Stoke-on-Trent City Council Labour member for Hanley Park and Shelton, told The Sentinel.
"We are encouraging not just Muslims but all communities to come along and see what we are doing," he said.
"We have got a community centre which we want everybody to use.
The Regent Road mosque project has caused political uproar from the very beginning.
After announcing plans to establish the new mosque, the city council was criticized over its decision to lease the land for £1.
The site was later bought from the council for £70,000.
Yet, problems were far from over.
In December 2010, 23-year-old soldier Simon Beech, from Hartshill, recruited Garreth Foster to help him start a fire at the mosque.
The pair connected a pipe to a live gas main and fed into the first floor of the building before lighting a fire on the ground floor.
The fire caused £53,000 of damage and set the project back for 12 months. The mosque was not insured and the money had to be raised again.
The cost of the mosque is expected to reach £2.2 million by the time it is completed - all of which has been raised by the Muslim community.
"We have had our setbacks but we are really chuffed with it, Wazir said.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.
The building of mosques has been facing growing public opposition in several Western countries.
In the United States, at least 35 mosque projects have found foes, who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
Building mosques was also meeting opposition in several European countries as France, Italy and Spain.
The mosque opening was urged to host hundreds of Muslims during Ramadan prayers, one month ahead of the official opening
"There are bits and pieces that need finishing off, and we are hoping to have it properly opened in late August, Wazir said.
We wanted to have it opened for Ramadan because our old place in Shelton is not big enough.
"People are more comfortable now we have got a bigger place. We are getting 300 to 400 people for night-time prayers."
Islamic centre director Rana Tufail had a similar opinion.
Everything is not yet complete but we are using it every day for prayers.
"The month of fasting started on July 10 so we were keen to start using it for then. The community is very satisfied, they are very keen to use the new place."
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started last Wednesday, July 10.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net