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Community / Former Lerwick shop could turn into venue for Muslim prayer

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A BUSINESS owner is looking to establish a place for Muslim prayer in Lerwick.

Ghufar Razaq has applied to change the use of the former Lochside Stores building opposite the Clickimin Leisure Complex, and carry out some refurbishment.

He explained that Friday lunchtime prayers are best done as a congregation, as well as those for the annual Eid celebration.

Razaq said the plan is to offer a central location for congregational Muslim prayer and act as a local support and resource centre.

He said there are probably around 30 Muslims in Shetland at the moment. There is no mosque or shared premises for those in the community.

Razaq said his parents moved to Shetland in 1970, and any prayers from Muslim members of the community were initially done at home.

“But as time progressed and we saw the opening of Shetland’s first Indian restaurant, the muslim community started to grow with it peaking to over 70 people in the early 2000s,” he added.

“Although practising Muslims pray five times a day, the Friday lunchtime prayer is best done as a congregation as it is regarded the Islamic holy day and the most important congregational prayer of the week.

“Whilst prayers were initially held at home, this became too small for the attendees and it then moved to a room above the Raba Restaurant where it was held for a number of years.

“With many locum doctors coming to Shetland over the years, one of their first questions is where are Friday prayers held and where can we get halal meat/food.

“A few years ago, one of the doctors managed to arrange for Friday prayers to be held in the prayer room at the Gilbert Bain Hospital and this worked quite well for a while.”

However when the Covid pandemic came along, the situation changed and prayers could not be held there anymore.

Prayers then moved to above a takeaway on Harbour Street, and they were held there until the business closed last year.

He explained that Eid prayers are also carried out as a congregation and these are held twice a year – once at the end of Ramadan and another about 10 weeks later.

“During Ramadan, the ‘night’ prayer is also elongated as Muslims require to be more in touch with their faith during the holy month as well as concentrating on helping the poor through charitable deeds most of which is compulsory on those who can afford it based on a percentage of their wealth,” Razaq added.

“Over the years we have provided support to muslim doctors and lecturers, visitors to the islands and even some patients who have ended up in the Gilbert Bain through sickness or accident.

“However there has never been a central place for anyone to contact should support be required and no central gathering place to hold weddings or funerals.

“This application will help address the issue of Friday and Eid prayers being in one place for the long-term, provide a support and community centre where they can gather and help each other and become a resource centre muslims and non-muslims can come to as a point of contact and information.”