UK: OLD CHURCH BECOMES MOSQUE IN ALTERED AND UNEASY BRITAIN
On a chilly night this winter, this pristine town in some of Britain’s most untouched countryside voted to allow a former Christian church to become a mosque.
The narrow vote by the municipal authorities marked the end of a bitter struggle by the tiny Muslim population to establish a place of worship, one that will put a mosque in an imposing stone Methodist church that had been used as a factory since its congregation dwindled away 40 years ago.
The battle underscored Britain’s unease with its Muslim minority, and particularly the infiltration of terrorist cells among the faithful, whose devotion has challenged an increasingly secular Britain’s sense of itself.
Britain may continue to regard itself as a Christian nation. But practicing Muslims are likely to outnumber church-attending Christians in several decades, according to a recent survey by Christian Research, a group that specializes in documenting the status of Christianity in Britain.
More conspicuous than ever in both the halls of power and in working-class neighborhoods, Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims, about 2.7 percent of the population, are at once alienated and increasingly assertive.
In Clitheroe, the tussle involved a passionate young professional of Pakistani descent coming up against the raw nerves of tradition-bound local residents.
“We’ve been trying to get a place of worship for 30 years,” said Sheraz Arshad, 31, the Muslim leader here, his voice rattling around the empty old Mount Zion Methodist Church that will house his mosque. ”It’s fitting it is a church: it is visually symbolic, the coming together of religions.”