Crowdfunding Scores First Mosque in Outer Hebrides

Peter Wyatt / The Hoe, Pabbay, Outer Hebrides, via Wikimedia Commons

The funding target for the mosque was surpassed within a few days.

Efforts of a Leeds businessman have paid off. The Outer Hebrides will have its first mosque. According to Aihtsham Rashid, a proprietor of a construction business specializing in crafting mosques, this represents an excellent opportunity for all Stornoway residents independent of their color or faith. The mosque will be a retrofitted existing building which was originally a residential house. The new structure will not only function as a mosque but also be used for weddings and, if needed, funerals. The mosque construction plans were approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the islands' council, in 2017.

Rashid set a £50,000 target for the renovation. The amount was not only met fast but exceeded the goal. He was pleasantly surprised to find that donations came from all over the world. It came from countries like South Africa, Pakistan, and the U.S. Consent for the mosque was granted in 2013 before the planning permission application was approved in 2017.

The mosque faces opposition from Free Church of Scotland. The latter described the building of a mosque as an “unwelcome development.” Reverend David Blunt of the presbytery of Outer Hebrides said, “Our main concern is with the religion of Islam itself. If a mosque ever opens, will be able to promote itself in our midst through public worship, despite its beliefs and practices being alien to the religious convictions of the vast majority of our community.

Blunt added: “Islam is also incompatible with, and indeed a threat to, our religious and civil liberties. The oppression of Christians and the reduced status of women under Islam are well-known, as is the willingness of some of its followers to spread its influence by violent means.”

Muslims are not new in Stornoway. They have been a presence in the Western Isles from 1945. The number of Muslims in the region swelled when Syrian refugees came streaming in from other parts of the UK. Two Syrian refugee families subsequently settled in the town. The Comhairle nan Eilean Siar provided accommodation to eight people as a component of a scheme funded by the UK Government. This resettlement scheme was created as a constructive response to the Syrian war. It offered homes to many refugees all over the United Kingdom and in Scotland. Other than the Comhairle, several Scottish local authorities have the power to provide accommodation.

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