Hazel is a long-term community activist and resident in the Granby Triangle. She looks at the influence Muslims have had in Liverpool.
(Photograph 0f Liverpool Central Mosque on Hatherley Street)
What influx? Liverpool had one of the earliest mosques in Britain, founded in 1887 by William Abdullah Quilliam, a lawyer who had converted to Islam. This mosque building, which was also the first in England, still exists and plans have been ongoing to re-convert the building where the mosque once stood into a museum. The mosque was built in Brougham Terrace, Tuebrook.
There are now three mosques in use in Liverpool: the largest and main one, Al-Rahma mosque, in the Granby Triangle, and the newest mosque to the city recently opened in Mossley Hill. The third mosque was also recently opened on Granby Street. It was the old post office, closed many years ago, left to rot by those who govern Liverpool, and brought back into use by people of the Islamic faith. Thank goodness someone had the guts to save the building and bring it back into community use.
Lodge Lane is a changed place and I put the responsibility for this firmly onto Muslim shoulders. There are food outlets, a wonderful coffee shack, a prize winning independent supermarket, some of the leanest, freshest, halal chicken I have ever bought from a long established supermarket called Spendwell. Pubs have been converted into restaurants and there is a cash machine within walking distance from my home! People are chatting and strolling along Lodge Lane into the evening and many greetings exchanged.
Gone are the empty buildings and boarded up shops that followed the uprisings of 1981, the neglected rubbish strewn street that smelled of desperation and alcohol. If this is the result of an ‘influx of Muslims’, bring it on.
My friend, from the Yemen, who came to Liverpool as a young wife to an Imam, set up a Muslim Prayer room in the ground floor of her house. This served the Muslims of Toxteth for years, until the Al-Rahma mosque was built. She came to Liverpool 50 years ago.
Liverpool is a port – it is the ‘world in one city’ as the City Council like to say, and that world has been here for at least 300 years. We have the oldest established China Town in Europe. Sailors came on ships from China, Nigeria, and Yemen – anywhere that had a coastline and a port, from everywhere in the world. Liverpool has built its history and wealth on the labours, skills and ideas of the people who have come here.
Census figures show us that Liverpool has no ‘influx’, we do not even have the average BME demography. We have a less diverse population here than is the UK average.
Nine tenths (90.1%) of Liverpool residents were born in the UK. This is slightly higher than is the case nationally (86.6%).
86.2% (402,200 people) of Liverpool’s population are White British or Irish, while 13.8% (64,200 people) are Black and Minority Ethic. These latest figures are from the 2011 census which is pretty up to date, I think, when it comes to changing demographics. These figures show that Liverpool’s population is less ethnically diverse than the population of England and Wales as a whole.
The thousands of migrants and sailors passing through Liverpool over many decades resulted in a religious diversity that is still apparent today. This is reflected in the varied collection of religious buildings, and two Christian cathedrals.
Liverpool, like several other port cities in England and Wales has had a strong presence of Yemeni people for centuries. Yemenis (who are most likely Liverpool’s largest Arab group) alongside Somalis are the two largest Muslim groups in the city and have been here for years! Why are they being noticed now? I hope I don’t smell the obnoxious gas of racism.
Liverpool, in my opinion, is a fantastic city. It has vibrancy and joy, great green spaces, trees and amazing architecture. It is a city with people full of skills and talents, who speak two or three languages at the age of five – their family language, Arabic and English. People who run family businesses that add needed facilities to an area and give employment. People who, by and large, are sober and kind. People who bring colour and music and fantastic food to share. People who bring a different way of thinking and so stretch horizons and experiences. People who arrived in Liverpool after escaping the insanity of war and famine and degradation. People who have lived here for years and raised their children and laid their parents to rest in this city.
Do not tolerate these people – a tolerant society is not so great, who wants to be tolerated? Do not even welcome them, some of them have been Scousers for longer than some of you, reading this – they will welcome you. Accept with open arms, minds and spirits the people who seek freedom and peace here and be glad that this city has been enriched by its history of ‘influx’ and let’s hope that this continues into the future.