A former convenience store could become Shetland’s first permanent place of worship for the Muslim community under fresh plans published this week.
Ghufar Razaq, who owns Lochside Stores in Lerwick, has submitted an application to change its use and carry out repairs.
Mr Razaq, whose parents were among the first Muslims in Shetland when they arrived in 1970, said there had never been a central place for the community to join in prayer.
“This application will help address the issue of Friday and Eid prayers being in one place for the long term,” he said.
“It will also provide a support and community centre where they can gather and help each other and become a resource centre where Muslims and non-Muslims can come as a point of contact and information.”
Mr Razaq said around 30 Muslims currently lived in Shetland, although more visited, including locum doctors who often asked where Friday prayers were held.
While practising Muslims pray five times a day, Mr Razaq said the Friday lunchtime prayers were best done as a congregation.
“It is regarded as the Islamic holy day and the most important congregational prayer of the week,” he explained.
Over the years, Shetland’s Muslim community has joined together for Friday prayers at various temporary venues, including people’s homes and a room above the Raba restaurant, which was used for many years.
A prayer room had also been set up at the Gilbert Bain Hospital, which Mr Razaq said worked well for a while – until the pandemic struck.
The venue moved again to a room above an Indian takeaway in Harbour Street until that closed last year, leaving the community again without a place to meet.
Mr Razaq said the lack of any permanent place of worship had posed problems for the community, including in matters such as arranging weddings and funerals.
It has also left folk without a place for Eid prayers, which are held twice a year, including after Ramadan.
Mr Razaq said the application was an attempt to provide a “permanent solution to hold congregational prayer”.
“However it’s also an attempt to create a central community and resource centre for Muslims both based in Shetland as well as any visitors to the isles,” he added.
“Non-Muslims would also be welcome to the centre to either participate or obtain information or resources that they may be interested in or curious about.”
The building, in South Lochside, has been out of use for several years.
Mr Razaq had previously been granted permission to use it as a hot food takeaway in 2020 but no further development took place.
A decision on the application is due by 20th August.