CAIRO – The Muslim community in Chipping Norton town in England’s south east district of West Oxfordshire has put forward new plans to create their first mosque in the district to host worshippers who has been living in the city for three decades without a worshipping place.
“There have been Muslims in Chipping Norton for about 30 years and I have lived here for 24 years,” Chipping Norton town councilor Tahirul Hasan told Banbury Guardian on Friday, January 4.
“Every day our numbers grow and we’re quite a big community now.”
The mosque proposal, spearheaded by Hasan, suggests converting a ground floor of a disused shop in West Street to be used as a prayer room.
The proposal would involve the conversion of the ground floor of the building, which would be let from a private landlord. The first floor of the building would be leased separately.
The mosque would be used by Muslims from across West Oxfordshire who currently meet on the ground floor of the town hall.
It would be funded entirely by collections made by the Muslim community at prayer meetings.
The planning application has been lodged with West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC).
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million.
A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.
A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.
The new plans were met by suspicions from some Chipping Norton residents who expressed concerns about the timing of the application.
“This application has been submitted at a time when WODC and Chipping Norton Town Council will be closed for a large part of the consultation period, but objections have to be in by January 12, 2013,” former town councilor John Grantham said.
“Notices have not been placed in prominent positions. The people of Chipping Norton have a right to be made aware of this controversial application.”
The site lies within a development of small businesses, Grantham added.
“It has always been a business premises and I don’t think the district council’s policies allow business premises to be changed and I don’t see it as a good reason to change this particular one,” he said.
Hasan, who also runs a charity to help fund education for children in his native Bangladesh, was keen to emphasize the mosque would have a limited impact on residents.
“It’s called a mosque but it’s nothing like the traditional mosques you see,” he said.
“The meetings will only be for five or ten minutes at a time.
“In Chipping Norton there are 6,000 people and they have many churches in the town, so why not have a small mosque?”
The effort to construct Chipping’s mosque is not the first by the city councilor.
Hasan lodged an unsuccessful application for a mosque in 2007.
He said he hopes people in Chipping Norton will now support the Muslim community’s plans.
“At the moment our children don’t know what a mosque is and we want them to be able to grow up knowing what a mosque is like,” he added.
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