Aberdeen church opens doors to Muslims

Isaac Poobalan and Ahmed MegharbiA Scottish reverend has invited Muslims to pray alongside Christians in an Aberdeen church because the nearby mosque is so small that some worshippers were forced to pray outside.

The rector of St John’s church, Rev Isaac Poobalan, has made parts of the building available to the congregation of the mosque. Up to 100 Muslims now pray in the main chapel five times every Friday.

Church leaders believe this may be the only place in the UK where Christians and Muslims worship side by side; there have been similar moves in the US, including in Memphis two years ago.

The building which now acts as the Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque was built on the grounds of St John’s Church at St John’s Place, off Crown Street, in the mid-1980s. In 2006 it was turned into a prayer room, but developers did not anticipate that up to 200 Muslims would want to worship there.

“If they all squeezed in very tightly about 60 or 70 people could fit inside,” said Poobolan. “One day when I was walking past the mosque, I found 20 or 30 people outside on the ground around the pavements with their hands and feet exposed. You could see their breath. When I spoke to people at the church about the situation, someone actually said to me this was not our problem, but I had seen it with my own eyes, so it was a problem.”

The two faiths have been working closely together in Aberdeen for several years. On Christmas Eve 2010 the church and the mosque held simultaneous prayers and then both opened their doors to provide food for local people.

Guardian, 18 March 2013