Published: 16:30, 13 February 2018
Plans for a new mosque, which have been the subject of protests by far-right activists, have taken a step forward after campaigners raised more than £500,000 towards the project.
The existing Community and Islamic Centre in Maidstone is no longer fit for purpose and so bosses instead propose building a new multi-purpose community building in the heart of the County Town.
However, campaigners from groups such as Britain First have staged a number of protests against the construction of what it describes as a "mega mosque".
Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant met with religious figures this week to hear how the project is progressing, with much of the funding coming from individual families who have donated £1,000 each in return for a plaque on the fundraising ‘board of honour’.
Whilst the building will be used as Mosque by some 300 worshippers every week, it will also be open to other groups in the town for a multitude of community uses, as is the case with the current building.
Mrs Grant said: "I will be doing what I can to help the fundraising for this important new centre in Maidstone and I am also calling for offers of alternative places for worship whilst building works are ongoing.
"The existing mosque location will be out of commission during the building process, which I understand is expected to commence in July this year and last for around 10 months.
"If anyone knows of a building and some nearby parking that can cater for around 300 people, or even two sessions of 150, please contact me and I will pass on the details."
Her visit was also used as a way to promote #VisitMyMosque day, which is taking place on Sunday, and will see more than 200 mosques across the country open their doors to their neighbours of all faiths - and none - under the theme ‘Open Doors, Open Mosques, Open Communities!’
Maidstone Mosque Imam Dr Muhammad Usmani said: "It was our pleasure to welcome Helen to the community centre and to provide her with an update on our improvement plans.
"We are delighted with the progress that has been made and very grateful for the generosity of our supporters.
"We are also enormously excited about the potential the updated facility will hold both for our worshippers and for the wider community and can’t wait to welcome Helen back to see the completed project, hopefully early next year."
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