x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Mosques to receive respectful care

Cleaning companies will be fined if their workers violate the sanctity of mosques in the northern Emirates by playing CDs, not wearing uniforms or leaving rubbish inside.

Paint is peeling off the minaret of the main mosque in the village of Alhala near Fujiarah.
Paint is peeling off the minaret of the main mosque in the village of Alhala near Fujiarah.

Cleaning companies will be fined if their workers violate the sanctity of mosques in the northern Emirates by playing CDs, not wearing uniforms or leaving rubbish inside. The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Awqaf announced the new fines, ranging from Dh10 (US$2.70) to Dh500, in a memorandum to Islamic affairs departments in the northern Emirates. The new laws state that a company would be fined Dh100 if its employees left rubbish behind, and Dh200 if any of them played CDs or cassette tapes. If there was no supervisor at the site the company would be fined Dh200; workers not wearing uniforms or carrying identity cards would pay Dh10 a day; and companies failing to arrive for work would be fined Dh500. A Dh500 fine would also be incurred if workers arrived three hours late, or left without permission or without doing their work. The memorandum also says authorities have the right to end any contract for violations. The authority has cleaning contracts worth Dh28 million for mosques in the northern Emirates. Abdullah al Suwaidi, the head of the mosques department at Ajman Awqaf, said: "Before many companies, even when they are paid to clean mosques, would take it as if they are doing charitable work. This is the right time to introduce fines for all companies who don't meet their obligations." Dr Hamdan al Mazroui, the chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Awqaf, said the Government wanted to keep all places of worship clean and that the fines would help care for mosques that are deep in the villages. "We would distribute questionnaires to all mosques to allow mosque users to gauge the services of the cleaning companies and, in case they are not happy, we can always revise the contract," Dr al Mazroui said. The authority has also introduced monthly meetings of preachers, imams and muezzins in the northern Emirates, starting this year. Muezzins are those who issue the call to prayer. In May last year, the authority announced that dilapidated and unhygienic mosques would be torn down or closed in a drive to raise standards in places of worship. It ordered that every mosque, mobile or permanent, had to have air conditioning. The focus of the drive was mainly on old "caravan mosques", temporary structures often in remote locations, which were to be replaced by new centres in response to concerns that people were praying in dirty conditions. The mosques were set up mainly in labour camps and would be taken along by construction workers as they moved around the capital. Many lacked air conditioning and basic facilities for cleaning. The authority is aiming to raise the standard of the 990 mobile mosques, renovate the washing facilities, employ cleaning companies, install air conditioning and generally improve aesthetics. In many cases the mobile mosques have been replaced with permanent ones. Women's facilities in permanent mosques across the capital were also improved, with increased privacy as a top priority. The authority issued a law in May ordering that anyone seeking to build a mosque must go through the authority to ensure they complied with standards. It also announced plans to build 124 permanent mosques to add to the 5,000 across the UAE, with priority given to areas such as Fujairah and the northern Emirates that had been overlooked in the past. ykakande@thenational.ae