ONE of Oxford’s three mosques is seeking to expand to cater for the hundreds of Muslims who attend each day.
Currently, the Madina Mosque in Stanley Road has to divide worshippers into two sittings for Friday prayers — the busiest service of the week — to make room for the 700 to 800 people who attend.
And at prayers for special holidays such as Eid, that number can double.
Imam Muhammad Attaullah Khan, senior imam at the mosque, said: “The plan is to extend the worshipping area for women and for men and also to have space for our children.”
The mosque provides classes for up to 150 Muslim children on weekday evenings, and is hoping to be able to provide better segregation for the girls and boys who are taught there if the extension is approved.
GCSE classes are also held in English, maths and science at the weekends, along with a prayer and study group for older women.
Imam Muhammad Ahmed Qazi, junior imam at the mosque, said another reason for extending the mosque was to minimise disruption to neighbours.
The development would be built at the back of the mosque, where worshippers currently congregate, potentially disturbing neighbours.
He said: “Our concern for our neighbours is one of the top three issues we are hoping to deal with because we don’t want our worshippers to be the means of their disturbance.
“When we had just one set of prayers, we had the worshippers standing on the footpath, sometimes even on the road, which is not acceptable.
“In our monthly timetable we mention specifically not to make noise or stand outside the mosque because our neighbours may be resting. If we can extend, it will be useful to us and to our neighbours becasue they will not be distrubed and the pathway and road will be free to use.”
He hoped it would also impact on parking, as the period in which visitors would be coming to the mosque would be reduced to one hour rather than two.
Imam Qazi said: “It will not sort out 100 per cent but I think 90 per cent of problems should be solved if we have enough space for the worshipers.”
He said the exact details of how the inside of the mosque would be restructured if planning permission were granted would be hammered out with the mosque committee.
It will cost in the region of £100,000 and it is hoped the work could be carried out within a year.
Muslims come from all over the city and from as far afield as Kidlington, Wootton and Abingdon. About 30 per cent come from outside the area but those who live locally are encouraged to walk.
Nearby residents have raised concerns about the proposals. Stanley Road resident, lecturer Richard Wilson said: “Among our concerns are the facts that the site which teaches children does not have a playground and is extremely close to a very busy road and junction. “Residents are in fear that these children will be hurt. If you are going to attract even more people to that area and especially children you are going to make an existing danger even worse.”
Claire Oxby, a 62-year-old teacher also from Stanley Road, said: “There are plenty of issues with the planning permission issues. Oxford is a multicultural city and we are multicultural ourselves, but we do have some concerns about the expanding school facilities.”