A couple of weeks ago, the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald ran with a front page story informing readers that the former Barony St John’s Church’s future had been secured.

The headline was “Ardrossan to get a mosque” with the sub-headline “Fund-raising bid to convert the former Barony St John’s Church into North Ayrshire’s first Muslim place of worship”.

This story sparked a lot of debate on social media, some of which I would like to address. But first of all, a wee bit of history.

I bought the Barony St John’s church and hall buildings back in December 2014 on behalf of my charity.

For several years we tried to convert the church building into an events centre which would provide us with a secondary source of income.

It was to be a place where people could come to watch live bands, plays, etc - but despite our best efforts we could not get this venture off the ground.

In 2019, Storm Brendan hit and devastated the connecting corridor between the church and hall buildings, as well as damaging the church hall roof and windows in the main church building.

Reluctantly, we took this as a sign, and put the church building up for sale in early 2020.

Initially, it was sold to Sava Estates, who flipped the building in a little over a week to make a profit on their sale.

The new owner planned to turn the church into flats, but soon realised this was not viable and put the building up for sale again. It was eventually sold to VQ Construction in 2021.

They also planned to make the building into flats but again this proved to be unprofitable as the church building had now been vacant for a number of years without heat and was showing signs of wind and water damage.

VQ Construction eventually sold the building to Al-Farooq Education and Community Centre in October 2022, the fifth owner since the Church of Scotland.

By this time the building was showing major signs of water ingress, some windows had blown out, and a lot of the internal walls and plasterwork had collapsed.

Now, I would have thought that anyone who planned to save this beautiful landmark building would be commended, especially someone who intended making it a community centre.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The current state of the old Barony St. John church building.The current state of the old Barony St. John church building. (Image: Submitted)

Unfortunately though, there seems to be a small number of people who felt it necessary to post their racist views on social media.

Here is one: “We need to get together as a community and stop this. They are not welcome here and will no doubt cause crime."

And another: “You are having a laugh. No way. I just cannot believe this. We cannot and will not allow this to happen. I will be highly offended and outraged and seriously objecting to this ever happening.”

Other comments made some unbelievably spurious claims including that Muslims taking over the building would result in the closure of John Robertson & Sons (Hamcurers) Ltd. on Princes Street; that “evil will be spread throughout the town”; and that this would result in “dogs being banned on Ardrossan beach” as this was against the Muslim faith.

These very same people will visit the Turkish barbers on Princes Street for a haircut, pop into Shah’s Palace for a kebab (also on Princes Street), and use the Post Office in the Nisa shop on Glasgow Street. But they don’t think for one minute about where these shop owners come from. What is their religion? Where do they worship?

Surely, if people from different cultures and religions open shops to service our community, they should be allowed to open a place of worship here too? We need to be more inclusive, not divisive.

Small-minded people obviously don’t realise the many good things Muslim people do in our community, and the good a Muslim place of worship and community centre would bring to Ardrossan.

I’ve seen many mosques giving out free food to the local community over Christmas periods and times of hardship.

When Brexit happened, and thousands of lorries got stuck at Dover, it was a Muslim group who took the drivers hot meals twice a day, free of charge.

Just last month, the Islamic Centre in Coatbridge gave out 300 food parcels to the elderly and those struggling financially.

Islam is a religion of peace that aims to promote community spirit. People need to stop tarring the despicable deeds of a few terrorists with the religion of Islam. Muslims are not bad people, just like most Catholics are not all IRA supporters.

Thankfully, the small amount of shamefully racist views were dwarfed by the huge amount of supportive comments on social media following this news.

“Good to hear that a derelict building will no longer be a pigeon refuge and someone is going to put investment into an old church rather than it becoming an eyesore," said one reader.

“So glad that an iconic building shall be made of use,” added another.

And there was this comment, which I loved; “I used to go to that church! My dad was treasurer and sang in the choir. Mum was a member of the Women’s Guild, I used to go to country dancing and also played badminton there. That was in the 50s! Mohamed preached a doctrine similar to Christianity and acknowledged Jesus. Politics is what causes hatred, not religion.”

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Al-Farooq Education and Community Centre to Ardrossan and thank them for saving this amazing Ardrossan landmark.

I would also like to wish them the best of luck in their fundraising efforts to renovate and repair the building into a place of worship and community centre.

I am sure it will prove to be a vital asset to the Ardrossan and North Ayrshire community.

As-salamu alaykum.