• Friday, May 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Spaces for prayers multiply across football stadiums and motorways

Providing special rooms to worship makes commercial sense for businesses

Airports make space for worshippers

By: Nadeem Badshah

FROM Selfridges to motorway service stations, the number of prayer spaces in the UK has grown.

 More rooms to worship or contemplate for men and women have opened in shopping centres, universities and football stadiums across the country.  

Multi-faith prayer spaces include the fourth floor of Selfridges department store in central London, the Bicester Village shopping park in the Oxfordshire countryside, the ground floor of St Thomas’ Hospital in London and Terminal 3 in Manchester Airport.

Faith communities said indoor facilities have improved in recent years and this has helped during periods such as Ramadan, when Muslims fast and pray more often.  

In previous years, people wanting to pray often did so in car parks or inside their vehicles. 

 Now there are at least 58 prayer spaces near a motorway junction, according to Google Maps data. 

 A spokesperson for Moto, a British service station operator, told Eastern Eye it has dedicated prayer rooms at seven sites: Hilton Park South, Lancaster South, Leigh Delaware West, Rugby, Toddington South, Trowell North and Woolley Edge South. 

 Kamran Uddin, a writer who is fasting during Ramadan, said the increased number of multi-faith rooms in UK airports and shopping centres is a sign of how much the country has progressed in accommodating diverse communities, and also how seriously Britons are taking their faith.  

He told Eastern Eye: “We can’t deny the physical and mental benefits of prayer which is akin to mediation – taking time out of your hectic schedule to wash your body and focus on something bigger than yourself, while praying for your loved ones and friends is a therapeutic act. 

 “For many organisations and businesses, it’s not just about ticking their diversity, equality and inclusivity requirements, it also makes commercial sense to cater for a growing subsection of society who are taking their faith seriously. 

 “If Muslims could choose between two shopping centres for example, but one of them had a prayer space and the other one didn’t, you’d find most Muslims would choose to go to the former.  

“Lots of motorway services also have prayer space, which is incredibly useful for Muslims who often have to bring a prayer rug and pray outside in the carpark.”  

People travelling can now find dedicated prayer spaces using location-based based mobile phone apps.  

Last year, Blackburn Rovers unveiled a WuduMate washing appliance next to its prayer room in the football stadium so Muslim supporters and employees could perform the ablution ritual before daily prayers. 

 Dr Abdussamad Mulla, CEO of Blackburn’s charity partner Benefit Mankind, said: “This facility is going to put smiles on the faces of the fans, who will have one less thing to worry about before coming to a game.  

“Before any obligatory prayers that we do, we have to do an ablution, where we wash our hands, our face and our feet.  

“Previously, supporters would have to use a sink, which would be very difficult if you were elderly or less able, but this new facility is going to make life so much easier and it’s also a social responsibility, because it mitigates health and safety risks.” 

 Rajnish Kashyap, general secretary of Hindu Council UK, said two prayer rooms opened recently at Kings College London and Royal Holloway University in Surrey. He added that there are 189 charity registered Hindu temples in the UK. 

 Harmander Singh, spokesman for the Sikhs in England thinktank, said there are around 300 gurdwaras in England. 

 Singh added: “Around 50 of the gurdwaras are in London. There is no requirement [in the religion] for an outside prayer space other than a gurdwara.” 

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