Muslim and Jewish worshippers at Aberdeen, Scotland, have demanded free parking on holidays, a privilege now enjoyed by Christians on Sundays.
The port city has waived charges for parking on Sundays until after 1pm which allows Christians to travel to church without a financial barrier or fear of having a fixed-penalty notice placed on their windscreens.
Now, minority faith groups in the city argue that they are not being treated equally, reported The Times.
“It’s all about equality. It would just be once a week, for two hours for the most important sermon and prayer of the week. This is a consideration of the religious need to encourage those who want to practise their faith. We are calling for this to cover all houses of worship,” Dr Ibrahim Alwawi, the Imam of Aberdeen Mosque and Islamic Centre, was quoted as saying by The Times.
There are about 10,000 Muslims in the city and the Jewish community is much smaller.
In 2021, Aberdeen’s new central mosque was inaugurated within the premises of the former Frederick Street Primary School. It is near to a multistorey car park owned by the council.
According to Alwawi, providing free parking on Friday mornings would contribute to reducing traffic issues in the area.
“Lunchtime is very tight. It’s very, very busy. People want to pray and eat and when you consider finding parking and paying it becomes stressful,” he is reported to have said.
Labour councillor Mohammad Tauqeer Malik has urged the city’s SNP and Liberal Democrat administration to act accordingly.
“Aberdeen is a city that is multicultural in its outlook and a place where its citizens appreciate the importance of many faiths and do so in harmony and with respect,” Malik told The Times.
“Not all religious days are on a Sunday, with the Qur’an invoking the importance of Friday as its day of worship. I was asked by the Muslim community to bring forward a motion because of parking issues around the new mosque.”
Malik added that the facility had become a victim of its own success as sometimes ‘people are breaking the law’.
The Aberdeen Synagogue and Jewish Community Centre has made private representations to the council over the issue. The Jewish Sabbath is observed every Saturday.
Aberdeen holds the distinction of being the least religious, as per the 2011 census. Nearly half of its 230,000 residents identified as having no religious affiliation.
Among the respondents, slightly over a quarter identified themselves as belonging to the Church of Scotland, 9 per cent as Catholic, 7 per cent as followers of other Christian denominations, and 2 per cent as Muslims.
Many former landmark churches in the city centre have already been converted into nightclubs, bars and casinos.
The local authority’s net-zero committee would soon discuss a report on the parking issues, the report added.