On February 22, WTI held an online seminar in which it invited Abu Masoon Abdul Yekeen, a Muslim student from Nigeria, in Kyungbuk National University to listen to what he and his colleague students have been experiencing around reconstruction of a small mosque for them. He has explained what happened.
Reconstruction work has been suspended for a year due to the strong objection and protest of some residents near the mosque whose ownership belongs to Muslim students. The university has Muslim students from various countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan. Abdul Yeekin is one of the 150 graduate students taking mater’s or doctoral programs in it. In 2012, they rented a space near the university and used it as a prayer room.
In 2014, because of the rental fee was sharply raised they decided to buy a house around the mosque with the money they had saved every month to prepare a better place for their religious activities. But the old house was not good to be used as a Islamic center because it used to leak during rains and had poor heating infrastructure as it was too old and small. In 2020, it was decided to purchase a building near the center and then proceed to reconstruct the building. It was smooth until the stage of demolishing and reconstructing the identical building.
However, on February, 2021, residents filed a petition in the district office against the reconstruction of the mosque. On the following day, the district office released an order of suspension of the reconstruction work. Residents said that many people would come to the mosque making lots of noise and bad smell coming from very strange culture for Koreans. They are also worried that when the Islamic temple is built, it will become a Muslim village which would threaten to ruin their life there. Concerned, the Muslim students designed the building with the sound and smell proof device and said that they will offer the joiners to stay inside the temple only during Ramadan. But negotiations did not take place.
Pastor Park Sung-min, a commentator in the webinar, who has been in solidarity with the Muslim students, said that it is “discrimination” that the district office ordered the suspension of construction just one day after residents filed a petition against the reconstruction of the mosque. He said that it would have been different if it were a church, a Buddhist temple, or a cathedral, not a Muslim mosque. Their opposition and conflict has been deepened due to the administrative order of the office. He said that “If religion and race are different, can’t they be neighbors?” is a key question. If we can’t accept the Muslim students as our neighbors, it’s like breaking our community. Rather, creating a community with diversity is what we should aim for, he stressed.