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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 December, 2004, 06:52 GMT
New mosque 'would benefit all'
The derelict church
Muslims bought the former church from a private owner in 1997
Fundraisers behind plans for a new mosque in a derelict church in Swansea say support for the project has been overwhelming from people in the city.

They have condemned a British National Party (BNP) leaflet opposing it and believe the Muslim community centre would strengthen race relations.

Muslims in Swansea bought the former St Andrews United Reformed Church from a private owner in 1997.

They aim to have it renovated and open within two years.

One of the biggest causes or racial tension is where communities ghettoize into groups but we believe we can achieve something for ourselves and the wider community
Arjan Ali

Arjan Ali, one of the project co-ordinators, said once complete it would be a centre for use by everyone in the city.

"The money used to buy the building was raised by the Muslim community and the charity has kept it safe and secure for the last six or seven years," he said.

"When we took on the building it was derelict. People had been using it for taking drugs. They were breaking into it and starting fires.

"It is one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in Swansea and we are working to restore it."

'Brownies or Cubs'

Mr Ali said the present mosque, just yards from the church on St Helen's Road, did not have enough room or facilities for the community.

"A lot of the stuff that we want to do we can't because there is not the space. We want to focus on three areas - the youth, women and elderly," he added.

"For the youth we are planning homework clubs, mentoring programmes, indoor recreational activities for both boys and girls - the sorts of things the Brownies or Cubs do."

There are plans for crèche facilities, mother and toddler groups, social activities and English classes for women.

St Helen's Road Mosque
Arjan Ali said the current mosque does not have the room for the activities planned

"One of the things we have noticed with the elderly is that help and support is there but Asians in particular are not accessing services such as meals-on-wheels.

He said people from all ethnic backgrounds or religious beliefs would be welcome.

"One of the biggest causes or racial tension is where communities ghettoize into groups but we believe we can achieve something for ourselves and the wider community."

Tension

Mr Ali said the leaflet, which the BNP claims to have posted to about 1,000 homes around the mosque, had caused offence among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

"The whole purpose of that leaflet is to create tension. There was some highly offensive stuff," he said.

"I have been surprised by the strength of support from the non-Muslim community since it appeared. There is wide support for what we are doing."

Police confirmed last week the BNP leaflet was being looked at by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The party has denied trying to stir up hatred and has argued it should be allowed to debate the mosque issue without fear of arrest.


SEE ALSO:
Anti-racism demo after mosque row
19 Dec 04 |  South West Wales
Police probe BNP mosque leaflet
15 Dec 04 |  South West Wales



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