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Rector offers Muslims prayer space

22 March 2013

A SCOTTISH Episcopal parish has offered space in its church hall for prayers by the local Muslim community, to ease overcrowding in their mosque.

The Rector of St John's, Aberdeen, Canon Isaac Poobalan, said: "My job is to encourage people to pray. The mosque was so full at times that there would be people outside in the wind and rain, praying."

The Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque was built in the grounds of St John's, in the 1980s, to accommodate about 60 worshippers, but today that number has more than doubled. Canon Poobalan said: "One day, when I was walking past, I found 20 or 30 people outside on the pavements with their hands and feet exposed. . . I knew I couldn't let this happen, because I would be abandoning what the Bible teaches us about how we should treat our neighbours."

Initially, some parishioners declared that it was not their problem. "But I had seen it with my own eyes, so it was a problem," Canon Poobalan said. "When I spoke to the imam, there was some hesitation on their part, too, because this has never been done before. But they took us up on the offer, and it has been a positive relationship."

Up to 100 Muslims now pray in the church hall five times every Friday.

The Chief Imam, Amed Magghabri, said: "What happens here is special, and there should be no problem repeating this across the country. The relationship is friendly and respectful."

The move was praised by the Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney, Dr Robert Gillies.

He said: "Internationally, the news speaks of tension and struggles between Islam and Christianity. Yet here, in Aberdeen, a mosque and a church have built bonds of affection and friendship."

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