STORNOWAY – The first mosque in the Western Isles of Scotland, opened last May, has proven to be a huge hit with tourists as the worship house’s trustees say hundreds of people have come to visit the mosque.
“We received so much publicity when the mosque opened that people want to see what all the fuss is about,” said Abdul Ghaffar, a Muslim research scientist and member of the Muslim Pakistani community in the Western Isles, Daily Record reported on September 30.
“I think our mosque is better known than many of the big mosques in Scotland’s cities.”
The Stornoway mosque opened its doors before the holy month of Ramadan 1439 (May 2018) to provide an Islamic place of worship for the area’s 80-strong Muslim community.
“There are a lot of people coming to visit our mosque. We have had people coming from the mainland and all over the world,” continued the 62-year-old Muslim man who has lived in Harris for 24 years.
The mosque opened after a crowdfunding campaign raised almost £100,000 to convert a dilapidated building in the town that had previously been bought by members of the Pakistani Muslim community living in the Western Isles.
On October 1, the BBC will broadcast an Alba documentary that tells the story of how a vibrant Pakistani community has been an integral part of everyday life in the isles for the last 60 years.
At its peak, more than 90 members of the Pakistani community lived on the island but now shop owner Abdul and his wife Bushra, 55, are the only ones left living on Harris, while just nine others live on Lewis.
“We hope that our new mosque will attract more members of the Pakistani and wider Muslim community to move to the Western Isles,” Abdul Ghaffar said.
“There are a number of families from the Bangladeshi community who live on Lewis and three families of refugees who came here from Syria. We must have around 80 members of the Muslim community and the mosque is doing a wonderful job of bringing everyone together,” he informed.
“We come together for Friday prayers and on a Sunday, when everything closes, we also tend to meet up. In the past, I know a number of Muslims have been put off traveling to the Western Isles because there was no mosque but now they will hopefully be happy to come and perhaps even set up home in this beautiful part of the world.”
Before the mosque opened, members of the Muslim community living in the Outer Hebrides held prayers in living rooms and were forced to wash the bodies of dead loved ones in their garages.
Abdul Ghaffar explained: “We dreamed of having a mosque for the last 20 years and now our dreams have come true.”
Research by VisitScotland has revealed that going to worship houses is among the most popular activities for long and short-haul tourists.
A spokesman of the national tourism agency for Scotland said: “It’s fascinating to hear that visitors are keen to explore the first mosque in the Outer Hebrides. We’ll watch with interest to see if this becomes a regular part of the visitor experience.”