Muslims find direction in old church

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By Mick Jensen

A former Methodist church in Tinwald is being revamped and repainted and is set to become the South Island’s fourth mosque.

The building, on the corner at Jane Street and State Highway 1, was bought by the Ashburton Muslim Association Incorporated (AMAN) and will provide a worship venue and education centre for local and visiting Muslims, as well as a space where the wider community is invited.

AMAN vice-president Hasan Shahrom said although the church was 120 years old, it was in good condition and more importantly it was already set up to allow muslims to prayer in the direction of Mecca.

Financial support to buy the building had come from within the Muslim community, both in New Zealand and in Australia and that fundraising effort was ongoing.

AMAN members had been able to take early possession of the new mosque, or masjid, and had used it to observe the Muslim celebration of Ramadan and Eid, he said.

Muslims prayed five times a day – at dawn, noon, afternoon prayer, sunset and at night – with a weekly congregation on Friday afternoon.

Muslims living in Mid Canterbury numbered around 70 and hailed from a dozen or more countries.

Mr Shahrom said the mosque was the fourth in the South Island after Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.

Painters were in the new mosque at the weekend transforming the walls with white paint. The exterior will be painted in the summer.

Men will enter the mosque from a separate door to women and will use the main hall to pray.

A back room will be used by the women and there will also be a space for children and new toilets created.

Thick new carpets will be laid throughout.

Mr Shahrom said he and other Muslims in the district had talked about establishing a mosque here for a number of years and now that dream had come true.

The idea had gained momentum with the establishment of the AMAN in March last year and the fundraising effort had been started.

“It is exciting times for us as Muslims, but this facility is not just about praying. It is here to unite and service the community and also to be used as an education centre.”

The new mosque will be more commonly referred to as the Ashburton Mosque or Ashburton Masjid and a grand opening is planned.

Members of the muslim community will speak about their religion as part of a series of cultural workshops organised by Volunteering Mid & South Canterbury, Ashburton Museum and Mid Canterbury Newcomers Network. The new mosque will be used as the venue for the August 29 talk.

Photo: Checking out the painting of the mosque interior on Sunday was this group of local and visiting muslims, including Mubashir Mukhtar (third from right) and Hasan Shahrom (far right).