Unionist opposition to Portadown Mosque

We rarely link to the Times because it requires a subscription or registration but this story seems too extraordinary to omit:

“The construction of Northern Ireland’s first purpose-built mosque is being blocked by Unionist politicians who say that residents would be kept awake by ‘wailing’ and that Muslims are plotting to destroy Christianity.”

Correpondent David Lister comments:

“For years a small Muslim community near Portadown, Co Armagh, has observed the antics of Orangemen during the annual marching season in the mid-Ulster town. Blending into the most famously hardline Protestant area of Northern Ireland, a province that remains 99.15 per cent white, according to the 2001 census, was always going to be tricky for the two dozen Muslim families who live here. Many of them work at the hospital or run takeaway food shops.”

Although outline permission has been granted for the building already, Lister quotes from two public representatives in the area. First Ulster Unionist Fred Crowe:

“…said that residents in Bleary believed that their way of life would be threatened if the mosque were built. Mr Crowe said that encouraging Muslims to settle in Craigavon might open the door for militants.”

And then for the DUP:

“Woolsey Smith said: ‘They say it’s not going to be an eastern-type mosque and there’ll not be the wailing noise calling these people to worship but we don’t know about that. I would be worried for residents in the area as to just what they will be confronted with.'”

But he gave the last word to two local Muslims:

“Adam O’Boyle, a Roman Catholic who converted to Islam four years ago, said that the Province’s insularity meant that many people found it difficult to cope with other walks of life and different ethnic groups.”

“Mohammad Ashraf, a Pakistani whose family came to Northern Ireland 27 years ago and who owns the land on which the mosque will be built, said: ‘We don’t want to fall out with anybody but we want the mosque. It will be a simple building that will blend in, with just one dome, not too many minarets. There’ll be no wailing, no call to prayer. Who is going to listen around here anyway? Cows?'”

Update: the story from a local perspective.

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