An islamic prayer room at Manchester Airport which was damaged in a suspected arson attack has been shut – for ‘health and safety’ reasons. The cabin was used by taxi drivers and airport staff for worship but was closed suddenly by airport bosses earlier this week.
Two ceremonial garments inside the room were deliberately set ablaze on September 11 last year – the ninth anniversary of the attacks on New York’s Twin Towers.
Now the centre, on the airport’s taxi feeder park in Ringway Road, has been axed permanently – because chiefs say the building is dangerous and would cost too much to repair. But taxi drivers have reacted with anger – claiming around 500 people use the site every week and that it forms a crucial part of their daily routine.
One driver, a member of the Manchester Airport Taxi Drivers’ Association who are National Taxi Association members, said: “Everyone is furious that we were not consulted. We went to use it as normal and found it was locked up with a sign on the door saying it had been closed.
“Many Muslims go there five times a day to pray – we’ve used it for about a decade and are disgusted that it has shut without warning. We were all very upset when it was set on fire on September 11 and this feels like another kick in the teeth.”
The site is separate from the five prayer rooms in the airport terminals, which are part of the airport’s multi-faith chaplaincy.
Airport bosses say the cabin is unsafe and have told the drivers that they can now use their other prayer rooms.
Detectives said they were uncertain whether the blaze on September 11 last year was ‘religiously or racially motivated’.
An airport spokesman said: “Having had an independent health and safety assessment conducted, we were informed that the building had reached the end of its serviceable life and was beyond repair. We continue to provide other prayer rooms that are easily accessible.”