Utrecht: Municipal information counters in mosque

Utrecht: Municipal information counters in mosque

The Utrecht municipality in the Netherlands will open two information counters in the Omar al Farouk mosque (Overvecht neighborhood) next Friday: one for men and one for women.

Here mosque visitors could come with questions about work, education, care, sport and the large-scale plans for their neighborhood.

The associations Stiva and Ward, the driving forces behind the two mosques in Overvecht, are the two co-initiators of the counter.  They speak of a novelty for the Netherlands.  The Amsterdam municipality also put in digital information boards in several mosques.  The two Utrecht counters are manned.

The project is an experiment and is part of the plans to help the 'Vogerlaar neighborhood' of Overvecht [ie, a problematic neighborhood which is given special assistance by the government].  If it is a success, there will be more municipal counters in mosques in other problematic neighborhoods in Utrecht.  The initiative might then be copied nationally.

The experience of the Stiva and Ward associations is that municipality doesn't know enough to reach the visitors of the mosque.  And that is important, since Overvecht will be (extensively) renovated in the coming years.

Nine apartment blocks, where many immigrants live, will be knocked down.  The aim is to involve the residents as much as possible.  Muhammad Joemman of Stiva says they see that many neighborhood residents want to know more about what is going on in Overvecht.

Language is often a problem for the immigrants, according to Joemman.  Moreover, the municipal counter in the Overvecht library is too high of a barrier for many Utrecht residents of immigrant origin.  The counter is in the back of the hall and that is just a bit too far for many immigrants.

The two separate counters in the Omar al Farouk mosque have been unofficially in business since the end of January.  and successfully. Joemman says that on average five women a day come to the women's counter.

It is not the first time the the municipality collaborates with the mosque administration.  In the past the municipality had an informational meeting in the mosque after Friday prayers about the rail-zone.  It was fairly well attended.

Source: AD (Dutch)

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