Refugee Mosque Plans on Small Scottish Island ‘Threat’ to Liberty, ‘Unwelcome’, Says Christian Community

ROTHESAY, ISLE OF BUTE, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 04: Syrian refugee families arrive at their new homes on the Isle of Bute on December 4, 2015 in Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland. The Isle of Bute is welcoming 15 Syrian Refugee families as part of the governments plant to give refuge …
Christopher Furlong/Getty

Church leaders of the staunchly-Christian community on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, have called plans to build a mosque for just six Syrian refugee families a “threat” to “religious and civil liberties”.

Leeds businessman Aihtsham Rashid, who lives more than 500 miles away from the small Outer Hebrides settlement, has already raised more than £20,000 of the £50,000 target to convert a derelict building into a mosque, reports The Herald.

Crowdfunding after Western Isles Council approved a planning application for the first mosque on the Isle of Lewis, which has just 8,000 inhabitants, Mr. Rashid said that he had been “personally requested” to help the “Syrian refugee community”.

“I am aiming to get this mosque up and running by Ramadhan to enable the local Muslims to read their first tarawee prayers,” he wrote on the crowdfunding page.

“Please dig deep and reserve your very own house in paradise. ‘Whosoever shares in building a masjid for Allah, even if it is a small birds nest, Allah S.W.T will build for him/her a house in Paradise’,” the Muslim businessman added, quoting from Islamic texts.

When the local council approved of the planning application for the mosque in Stornoway, the Free Church of Scotland called the decision “a most unwelcome development”.

The staunchly Presbyterian Christian denomination said its main objection was not to the relocated people who have left warzones, but to the Islamic faith itself.

The church said that Islam is “wholly inconsistent” with Biblical teachings and is “opposed to the Christian religion”.

“If a mosque ever opens, Islam will be able to promote itself in our midst through public worship, despite its beliefs and practices being alien to the religious convictions of the vast majority of our community,” a statement from the presbytery read.

“Islam is also incompatible with, and indeed a threat to, our religious and civil liberties,” it added.

In 2015 during the height of the migrant crisis, the UK government decided to accept 20,000 Syrians into the country, with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon being a keen resettler of the migrants, accepting one in five arrivals.

Some refugees resettled in Scotland have been sent to remote, small communities, such as the Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Bute – a community of 6,000 suffering from high unemployment and poverty.

Expressing their gratitude for their new lives thousands of miles away from the Syrian conflict zone, refugees, who cost up to £23,000 each in their first year of relocation, complained of boredom, a lack of facilities, and said the Isle of Bute was “full of old people waiting to die”.

Father of four Abd, 42, said he felt “humiliated” when he asked the council to move him and his family to Manchester or Glasgow and the official told him that that was not possible as Scottish taxpayers and the community had paid “a lot of money to bring you here”.

“I feel like it’s an obligatory residence. I feel humiliated. I didn’t come here for anyone to control me,” Abd added.

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