“We are slowly but surely accumulating the amount we need,” she said.
The association sought to collect HK$10 million (US$1.27 million) within this year, the figure needed to initiate construction in Sheung Shui, in the New Territories, where the local Muslim population has been growing and no mosque exists.
“With the influx of migrants and more Muslims in Hong Kong, it is really necessary to have a place of gathering not only for religious reasons but also for social reasons,” Castro said. “We are a service-orientated organisation. We have schools, elderly homes … services that the Muslim community in Hong Kong has long been involved in. This is why this project is important. It’s not only a mosque but also a social centre.”
Hong Kong currently has five permanent mosques and a temporary one, along with dozens of madrassas – Islamic learning centres – spread across the city. The lack of proper spaces has led many Muslims to pray in makeshift mosques.
The idea of the Sheung Shui project emerged in the 1990s. The association in 2006 bought a plot of land from the government for HK$9.8 million (US$1.24 million), and was expected to complete the project by 2011.
However, the mosque ended up never getting off the ground due to a lack of funding and struggles within the association. Meanwhile, local officials have imposed high fines on the group for not building the project within the agreed time.
Saudi Arabia in 2009 pledged to finance its construction. But about two years ago, the country claimed it could not support the project after a fall in global oil prices.