Following the preparation of a list of questions, interviews were carried out at the Central Mosque on the 14th November.
The pairing of myself and Naheeda held 3 interviews, two of which involved two mosque members and the other just one. The response we got was similar in a general nature, but rather varied on a more detailed level.
Unfortunately, due to difficulties in both speech and spelling, I can’t give you the names of the first two men we interviewed. They were informative, and keen to discuss the background of Islam. In truth, given the answers we received, you’d have thought we were repeating the same questions to begin with, as everything seemed to steer back towards the history of Islam. However, I think this in the end portrayed the aspirations these two men had for the mosque extension. It became obvious that their major hope for the mosque is for it to act as an educating mechanism, and in particular to bring young children to the mosque, and not simply to pray, but to occupy lessons and classes in the non-prayer space.
The second pair of interviewees were led by Mohammad Bakhari, who is one of the mosque’s imams (meaning he delivers/leads prayers). He was accompanied by a local man, fairly elderly and a white British man in terms of ethnicity, but he had recently converted to Islam. Both of these gentlemen were clearer in their responses, and they both portrayed a desire for the mosque to provide services to the community. Again, their concern was less about the prayer space which we as researching students had previously assumed so important, and more about the lower level of the mosque where weddings and funerals take place. Issues such as a second lift were discussed, as well as the undesirable closeness of the mortuary and wedding party hall, need for a larger library and better wudu (wash area) facilities more suitable to disabled users.
Interestingly they also showed us a new device that the mosque had invested in, which was a portable radio that allowed locals to hear the prayer at home, removing the need for them to visit the mosque to pray. This seemed to be intended more towards the female population, who are often presumed to pray at home as a matter of Islamic tradition.
The final interviewee was the mosque representative, Mr Makhdoom. He was younger than those we had spoken to before, and seemed to be a little more architecturally astute. He has a professional role within the city council, and was more interested in painting the mosque as a city landmark. His focus centred on the external appearance of the mosque, and he discussed the possibility of an Islamic garden within the site. He also spoke of conceptual ideas, albeit very basic, such as the new mosque design resembling the shape of a moon, which is a prominent symbol of Islam. His hopes for the mosque seemed very visionary, and demonstrated that he thought the mosque could be entirely changed from its existing plan and layout.
Following the interviews, it was interesting to swap notes with Fatima, who had interviewed different committee members. She told me that her interviewees had spoken of budget issues and other practicalities, which hadn’t been mentioned in the slightest by the five men me and Naheeda spoke to.
We departed the mosque after two hours of questioning.