MUSLIM leaders hope that a new community centre will be a beacon for unity when it opens later this year.
Work is well under way on the £1.6m Al Mahdi centre on Fontley Road in Funtley, near Fareham, and it is expected to be ready for late autumn.
Completing the project will see the Wessex Jamaat, which is behind the project, finally able to move from the converted bungalow on Wickham Road in Fareham where it is currently based.
Yasin Rahim, Wessex Jamaat’s inter-faith director said: ‘The idea is that this is a centre to bring people together and create a community.
‘We want to bring unity, we want people outside the Muslim community to come in and be part of that too.
‘We want this to be a monument to social and community cohesion – this building will be a symbol of that.’
Once the centre is up and running they will invite local schools and groups to visit.
Mr Rahim said: ‘We still find that one of the biggest problems we face is the perception of what Islam means – we want to demonstrate we are part of the fabric of society.’
The centre is a compromised version after initial plans – influenced by Titchfield Abbey – were rejected by Winchester City Council for being too large and out of character.
The completed centre, on a former builders yard, will include worship areas, classrooms, conference rooms, and will hold weddings and funerals.
Mr Rahim added: ‘We purposely decided not to put a dome on the building, we wanted to draw on local architecture, but it is still a mosque, it is still a place of worship.
‘The finished design has kept some of the elements of our initial plan but it has been scaled down.’
Project director, Shabbir Walji added: ‘We have been blessed and supported by believers throughout the world who have given us their great support in various forms and for this we pray that the reward goes to their relatives who have passed away and to the generous donors’ wellbeing in both worlds, God willing.’
During the laying of the foundations in January, younger members of the Jamaat placed a 20-year time-locked capsule in a pit containing video clips of their aspirations for the future.