$3.2m gift to help speed mosque's expansion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 May, 2005, 12:00am

Construction will ease crowding at 21-year-old Kowloon site

Renovation work on the Kowloon Mosque has been given a kick-start by a $3.2 million donation from the Kuwaiti consulate, which cleared the way for the construction of expanded prayer facilities ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.

Organisers say the project is necessary to relieve pressure on overcrowded facilities, owing to a dramatic increase in the size of Hong Kong's Muslim community, including a boom in the number of women using the site.

This is mostly due to an increase in the number of Indonesian domestic helpers, now estimated at 75,000.

The $15 million upgrade and expansion of the 21-year-old structure will include a new prayer area for women.

By its targeted completion date in October, the mosque will accommodate 3,000 worshippers in the main mezzanine, and have additional room for 400 women. Also planned are new offices, a clinic and a library.

The mosque is one of five overseen by the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong.

'We have asked the contractor to go fast,' said Saeed Uddin, honorary secretary of the trustees.

He said thousands of Muslims will visit the mosque in October, when the start of Ramadan falls this year.

Fund-raising for the project has been going on for two years, but received major support when the Kuwaiti government donated $3.2 million this month.

Other funding for the project has come from private sources and independent, non-profit Muslim groups.

The upgrades will permit better use of the building and radically change the women's areas, which currently double as space for families and children.

'In a non-Muslim country it is very difficult to find a place to pray,' said Leila Karchoud, a spokesman for the Kuwaiti consulate. 'Right now it is very difficult [at the Kowloon Mosque]; the women's prayer hall is crowded with children.'

The mosque serves a varied group of people within the Muslim faith, including Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and Malaysians, as well as Chinese.

Mr Uddin said once the project is completed, attention will turn to much-needed renovation works at the Jamia Mosque on Shelly Street in Mid-Levels.

Construction will probably have to await a lengthy fund-raising process, but he said the concept plan includes two schools, a library and other cultural facilities that will be open to people of all faiths.