A Place For All
Belfast Islamic Center takes pride in its heritage of diversity, open-mindedness, civic engagement and community building.
Muslims have been living in Britain and Ireland since Elizabethan times. There have been Muslims in Northern Ireland for well over a hundred years, the first reported purpose-built place of prayer being the ‘Cockle House’ (facing Makkah) in Crumlin, reportedly built for a Muslim servant of the local landlord at the time.
Belfast Islamic Centre was established in 1978 by a group of Muslims from the local community to provide a focus for all Muslims living in Northern Ireland. The centre operates for the benefit of all Muslims irrespective of their ethnic background, gender, country of origin or age. At present those who use the centre represent 42 nationalities. No-one is absolutely certain about the number of Muslims in Northern Ireland, The total population of the Muslim community in Northern Ireland (from the 2011 census) is around 4000 individuals. We believe this figure only reflects the settled community in Northern Ireland and does not take into account other social demographics such as students. There may be up to 10,000 Muslims currently resident in the province.
What We Do?
Belfast Islamic Centre is the largest institution of the Muslim community in Northern Ireland and acts as both a place of worship and a community centre. In trying to address a very wide range of needs the centre inevitably finds it extremely difficult to provide the necessary range of services to the Muslim community within a comparatively small facility and with modest staffing and financial resources.
BIC is both a spiritual and social hub for the local Muslim community. Spiritual services include provision for the main Friday prayers (attended by around 400 worshipers), the 5 Daily Prayers (catering for around 100 throughout the day) and Religious education and Quran classes for both adults and children (around 40 students per class). In addition, we organise Eid prayer for around 1500 people. Due to the large numbers we usually hire an external hall.
The Mosque provides religious services and a range of educational, social, cultural and other activities to the Muslim community. The Mosque is a place where Muslims bow before God (the Arabic word for Mosque means ‘prostrate oneself’ ) to affirm their obedience to God’s will. The Mosque provides one location where Muslims can pray five times per day as Muslims do across the world.
Community services we provide include:
- Advocacy, Consultation and advice. For example, Counselling for reconciliation, Support for people who have suffered racial attacks and abuse. Supporting the NI Muslim Community in the wider NI context, representing Muslims at forums, consultation events and in the media.
- Conducting Marriage ceremonies and providing funeral services. In addition to the funeral, we organise Islamic rites such as ritual washing of the body and help with organising burial or transport (if being buried abroad).
- Chaplaincy services at local hospitals, Pastoral visits to prisons and Larne immigration detention centre. Chaplaincy services to students at Queens University and support for students from all local universities.
- BIC also offers economic help, primarily in the distribution of Zakat to needy families. Zakat is charity money from donations given out specifically to those in need within the community. Around 3 individuals request help per day. In addition, extra money may be provided for exceptional circumstances, such as help with high funeral expenses (families outside Belfast are charged non-resident rate for the Muslim cemetery at Roselawn) or food/expenses for those in need, for example: refugees, asylum seekers as and when requested.
- Provision of food for 150 people daily for thirty days during the month of Ramadan
- Health seminars, mental health and drug awareness sessions– recent seminars on Hepatitis awareness attracted over 60 people.
- Interpretation and translation (Arabic and Urdu). Many community members will approach us for help dealing with official documents.
- Language classes. We have classes for Arabic. We also have English classes for non-English speakers. This has been extremely popular over the years, particularly with non-working women accompanying their husbands working or studying in the UK. They often have less interaction and opportunity to learn if mainly based at home. Learning English is essential to their integration into NI society.
- We also organise many Social activities including day trips, Fun days on Eid, This provides family support, overcomes isolation and supports cultural development. We also have a Coffee morning and Mothers and Toddlers group on a weekly basis.
- We regularly support visits and host education seminars for the local NI community. We have 2-3 school visits per month: (number of pupils per visit 40-80), around 8 Community group visits per month (group size Averages 25), in addition we host Cultural awareness visits for Belfast City Council, QUB students and others. We also facilitate individual visits and over 200 people attended the recent annual ‘Visit My Mosque’ event.