A proposal has been put forward to establish a mosque and community centre for Muslims in Stornoway.
The plan for a disused house in James Street, adjacent to the former Church House premises of ND Macleod Ltd, succeeds a plan for a Pakistani social and cultural centre on the site which was approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in 2013 but which never proceeded.
The new scheme aims to alter the “existing semi-derelict building”, most recently used as a store, and remove chimneys, storm and dormer windows, renew the roof and windows and replace the doors and rainwater pipes and gutters.
This site is within the Stornoway Conservation Area and the proposal is officially described as “a change of use to a Mosque/Community Centre.”
The Muslim community in Stornoway used to be larger in number but several families have left in recent years. It has been augmented by the arrival of several Syrian refugees in recent months and for the last year has been meeting for prayers in the house of one of the members in Torquil Terrace.
Island MSP Alasdair Allan attended a prayer meeting there recently and has lent his support to the proposal. “It was nice to get the chance to meet with Stornoway's Muslim community and I would like to thank them for the warm welcome.
“The Muslim community here are proposing to turn a disused building into a place of worship. I think we ensure that everyone has the freedom to worship and so I think these plans are a positive move.”
The community believes that the establishment of the new centre will give their members additional social and religious support and help new members to feel more at home in the Islands.
So far three objections have been received to the proposal. No significant problems were identified for the change to community use envisaged by the previous plan
A spokesperson for the community said that some of those involved have lived here for 60 years and many were born on this island. “It has always been our home.”
After the previous planning approval lapsed, they chose to rename it to a mosque/community centre as the name now covers a wider range of communities and it was always their intention to use it for religious events, weddings and even funerals as there is nowhere we can hold a religious burial ceremony on this island.
“We currently congregate at a house but there is not enough space in a small living room for everyone and we feel heartbroken when people have attended but can't participate and that makes them feel left out too and we don't want anyone to feel like that, especially after the traumatic experience they have had coming from a war zone.”
So they now want to renovate the building they bought six years ago. “We thank all those that have voiced and given us their support and we appreciate it very much.”