AN election troubleshooter has been brought in to sort out affairs at a South Shields mosque.
The move comes after it emerged no proper elections had taken place at the Al Azhar Mosque in Laygate since 1995 – and that no accounts had been filed in some time.
Concerns have also been raised that the mosque had been run without being inclusive to the whole Muslim community.
Now, fresh elections are taking place to put a new committee in place by early next year.
And the London Central Mosque Trust Ltd and the Islamic Cultural Centre – which has jurisdiction over Al Azhar – has brought in Ghulam Shahzad, OBE, from Rochdale, to oversee the election. Mr Shahzad said the borough mosque adopted its constitution back in 1960, but no elections for the committee have been held in about 18 years.
He said: “It seems the committee has been self-appointed by a small number of people.
“We had received complaints, and my task is to ensure that fair, transparent elections are held, and that there is then a properly-elected new committee in place made up of 11 members.
“That committee can then go on to appoint a chairman, vice-chairman and secretary in the normal way.”
Mr Shahzad said that anyone who fitted the criteria would be able to stand for committee –- and that included previous members.
He added: “There would be no problem with that, as long as the election rules are followed properly, and to the letter of the law.
“I have visited South Shields, but I do not know the area.
“I will have no say in who is elected – I’m here to merely ensure that the due processes are followed.”
Prospective committee members have to be Muslim, aged 18 or over, resident within South Shields, and must pay a subscription set at £10 per individual or £20 per family.
To ensure fairness, South Tyneside Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) – the ‘umbrella’ organisation to the borough’s voluntary sector – will count the postal ballots.
Nomination forms had to be returned today so nomination papers could be sent out by Friday.
Nominations must be returned by Monday, January 13, with the results expected to be announced on Wednesday, January 29.