Muslims must pay to save Academy

Recently I saw a number of appeals on Facebook and other social media to sign a petition to save a “mosque” in Manchester, the Islamic Academy of Manchester, which had been sold to a property developer and is likely to be converted into flats by a specialist church conversion firm. The building had been owned by the council which leased part of it to a Muslim organisation, but the lease has expired and the building sold. The academy’s website has a press release and an article calling for “urgent action”, including contacting the media to protest “misrepresentations” and putting forward objections to the new owners’ planning application, but one kind of action is conspicuously missing.

The people encouraging Muslims to sign this petition are sadly misinformed about what can be achieved through a petition. The people who run the academy are hoping that the conversion of the building can be stopped through the planning process, but this can hardly be guaranteed and even if it is, it doesn’t mean the building could return to being a prayer hall or religious school for Muslims. It could just as easily be bought by some Pentecostal outfit for use as what the building was from its construction - a Christian place of worship (it was originally a Welsh Baptist chapel). Its return to Muslim use can only happen if Muslims get together, raise the money and buy the building outright, and there is, to my knowledge, no attempt ongoing to do this. The way things stand, the building belongs to the developers and Muslims really no valid moral objection to their being able to redevelop their building as they wish.

There are a number of mosques or Islamic centres in the UK which are not owned by the community but by the council or some trust and is used on a lease basis or long-term token rent basis. This is not a good basis for financing our places of worship or education and stores up trouble for when the arrangement comes to its end. Many Muslims will insist that once a building is a mosque, it is always a mosque, but if we do not own the building or the land, we cannot establish that trust over it. It is important that we finance these facilities ourselves as much as we can, even if it means less impressive buildings, to avoid us (or our descendants) having to give them up and having nowhere to pray or teach children the Deen.

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