A charity group is aiming to establish Harrogate’s first mosque to help bring together the area’s Islamic community.
The An Nur group hope to raise £500,000 to acquire a multi-purpose building in the centre of Harrogate in order for the community to celebrate holidays, religious milestones and community events together.
When celebrating major religious holidays, marriages or even conducting funerals many Harrogate Muslims have to travel to mosques in Leeds or Bradford.
Hasan Muhammad, trustee of An Nur said:”It will bring the community together as people will get to know each other better. Currently we are only able to have functions at churches and community centres in Harrogate, this does help but at the moment that is the only chance we have to come together.
“If we want to hold social events, like when we celebrate Eid, we have to rent space but that is it and we have very little time together. We are scattered and that is what we are aiming to address.”
Some observers face hours of commuting every week between Harrogate and the West Yorkshire mosques. The Islamic Association of the Harrogate District (IAHD), made up of around 20 families including Mr Muhammad’s, has been raising funds since 2009 to rent out local spaces like Fairfax Community Centre or St Robert’s Church to help with this.
However, several of their members wished to focus on acquiring a more permanent space for the community and so An Nur was officially formed in 2015. So far the group has managed to raise £90,000 towards its goal.
Mr Muhammad said: “We wanted the focus to be on acquiring space for a mosque and a community centre. A mosque is for prayer but we also want somewhere where we can meet and socialise.
“It’s very early days but Harrogate has a sparse number of buildings available for our needs and we need one that can be multipurpose.”
All money raised has so far come from the families within the community according to the group.
It is unclear how many Muslims live across the district but it is believed to be in the hundreds according to the An Nur group.
However the difficulty in organising events locally is preventing firmer ties being made across the district between those outside the IAHD.
Alongside helping those living across the district the area could see further benefits from the presence of a mosque. The group suggested that Muslim visitors could be encouraged to plan longer trips to the area if they are able to access somewhere to pray during religious holidays such as Ramadan.
Mr Muhammad said: “Harrogate is a tourist town and it has many Muslims pass through, but many in my experience do not do stop because at times like Ramadan there is nowhere they can pray.”
He added that the plan could offer a real chance to fight against misconceptions.
He said: “In Harrogate if we are visible and we are seen it makes everyone know who we are.
“It is when we are isolated that differences grow.”