Belfast Islamic Centre on move to bigger and better premises as Muslim community grows
Belfast Islamic Centre (BIC) is planning a move to larger premises in the city.
The charity, which is affiliated to the Muslim Council of Great Britain, is currently based in Wellington Park in south Belfast.
It held a briefing session for local political representatives yesterday about the plans.
The proposal is for the new centre to be based in the former Aldersgate House, which the Islamic Centre has acquired.
The building on University Road will become a community facility and prayer space.
Dr Saleem Tareen, the Islamic Centre's chairman, said: "The centre hopes to move into its new premises by the end of 2016.
"As the Muslim community in Northern Ireland increases, so does our requirement for additional space.
"Our existing premises are no longer fit for purpose and BIC has been striving to secure an alternate place for its activities and worship for some time.
"BIC has now purchased Aldersgate House on University Road, where we intend to relocate our Islamic cultural centre, allowing us to operate more efficiently and effectively in a modern facility.
"We believe that the new location, given its proximity to Queen's University Belfast, will be beneficial not only to Muslims, but to the wider community in general.
"The new centre will also be a more suitable space in which we can welcome visiting business people as they explore possible investment into Northern Ireland.
"Our plan is to move into the new premises by the end of the year."
The new base will include the prayer space, a drop-in centre, educational facilities and a coffee shop open to the public.
It will also serve as a place for interfaith and intercultural dialogue and debate.
In his statement, Dr Tareen thanked politicians and the public for their support.
"We wish to acknowledge with gratitude all the people of Northern Ireland for their continuous support all these years and hope that will continue in the future," he said.
"Our ambition is to flourish as a community, alongside our neighbours of all faiths and none, and to serve the Muslim community while continuing to play our full role in the cultural and economic life of Northern Ireland."
Independent councillor for the Botanic area, Ruth Patterson, said she was looking forward to seeing the proposal when the planning application was submitted to Belfast City Council.
There are more than 4,000 Muslims living in Northern Ireland, according to the BIC.