Published: 14:38, 14 September 2021
| Updated: 14:40, 14 September 2021
The county's first mosque to have its own mortuary has opened to the public.
Maidstone’s new mosque is finally open, five years after initial plans were first approved.
The three-storey building is on the same site as the previous place of worship, in Mote Road.
The old premises were demolished in 2018 but the project has faced many setbacks since plans were first approved in 2016.
In 2017, opposition protests against the ‘mega mosque’ from far-right groups such as Britain First took place outside the building.
Demonstrations were followed by a halt in construction due to a new planning application last July, which replaced plans for shops with a mortuary and a lift.
This April, works for the mosque and community centre needed more funding due to the latest design changes and extra expenses caused by the pandemic. This led the initial £1m budget to rise to £1.2m.
The modern upgrade was officially opened by Helen Grant MP and Maidstone’s Imam, Dr Muhammad Usmani, on Saturday, August 28.
The MP praised the efforts that went into the works.
Mrs Grant said: “You have created a place of calm, a sanctuary, a place of beauty and togetherness, for Muslims and for our Maidstone community."
Dr Usmani was pleased to announce the opening.
He said: “We offer our profound gratitude to all Maidstonians and authorities for their help and precious support in bringing this project to fruition.”
The Imam added that despite the ‘incredibly rough path’ to achieve the outcome, he could not be happier or more excited.
He added: “The entire community will benefit from it.Visitors can learn a lot either about the mosque itself or learn about Muslim worship practices.
"Children will benefit a lot with our youth programmes.”
Dr Usmani told Kent Online about the importance of having a mortuary as part of the centre’s core faith facilities.
He said the morgue is a basic need for the Muslim community and for Islamic burial and ritual.
It is the place where Muslims feel better supported in preparing their deceased loved ones for burial and for visits before the ceremony takes place.
The Maidstone Mosque’s mortuary will be able to store two bodies, which can remain there for up to two days.
The Imam explained that according to the Islamic faith, the burial must take place as soon as possible, within one or two days at most.
The mosque’s mortuary will not keep the bodies for longer than that.
Dr Usmani said it was not possible to have a mortuary in the old mosque due to the lack of infrastructure.
He said: “It is a great addition now that our building is safe and better arranged.”
The mosque has classrooms, library, offices, kitchen and a flat, as well as a mortuary.
Among local dignitaries at the ceremony were the leader of Maidstone Borough Council Cllr David Burton and his predecessor Cllr Martin Cox, plus police commissioner Matthew Scott and leading local and leading local businessman and Muslim community activist Mitu Choudhury.