A WOMEN-LED mosque, planned for Bradford, "deserves to be supported financially and morally by both men and women", according to a leading muslim figure.

The proposal for the UK's first all-women managed mosque, put forward by the Muslim Women’s Council (MWC), is currently under public consultation. Chief executive of the MWC said public support for the project has been "overwhelming".

"Muslims form 4.8per cent of the population in England and Wales," says the MWC. "The population size has increased from 1.55 million in 2001 to 2.71 million in 2011. Projections indicate that Bradford is tipped to become the first majority muslim city in 2030 -what we should be collectively focussing on is how we can reap the benefits of this change."

Earlier this month 150 people packed into Carlisle Business Centre in Manningham, where presentations on the women's mosque proposal were made, questions were answered and concerns were addressed.

Speakers included Shaykh Akram Nadwi, Dean of Cambridge Islamic College, who talked of the historic role of women in Islam. “The need for women to go to the mosques for the daily prayers, to take part in study circles, to encourage and be encouraged by other muslims to live their religion seriously, is neither more nor less than the same need in men," he said. "This need must be met; it is a religious duty. The lack of provision, and the lack of welcome, for women in the mosques that we have is the main reason for this project - to have a space for women where they can worship together, where they can encourage one another to study the religion and improve their understanding and practice of it.

"It is an initiative that deserves to be supported financially and morally by both men and women. I admire and appreciate the intention and the will and determination of those leading this project."

Dilwar Hussain, chairman of New Horizons in British Islam, said the initiative would help to empower women.

“It is important to re-integrate two important centres of the muslim community - the family and the mosque - for the welfare of the muslim community," he added.

Mohammed Rafiq Sehgal, president of the Council for Mosques (Bradford) said: “It is worth citing that the UK's first purpose-built Shah Jahan Masjid, in Woking, was commissioned by Begum Bhopal in 1889, a notable woman of very high standing.

"We have no objection to the Muslim Women’s Council establishing a Masjid as long as it is inclusive of all muslims and operates in accordance with the Islamic principles and etiquettes governing a Masjid."

Bradford Council leader Councillor David Green, who will help lead the final stage of the consultation process with other Bradford councillors and MPs, said: “If there is a demand for a women-led mosque and muslim women want it, why shouldn’t there be a mosque?"

Bana Gora, chief executive of MWC, said the mosque would be managed by women but open to both women and men, and a Centre of Excellence would be exclusively for women.

"Our consultation is ongoing and we are listening to the various viewpoints," she said. "We will consider the range of options put forward by Bradfordians, and we welcome any suggestions or ideas from the public. The support we have received to date has been overwhelming”.

There are currently 110 mosques across the Bradford district.

The MWC says the women’s mosque would provide a space for learning and social interaction and as well as worship. The aim is for a “spiritual retreat and sanctuary” where women can feel comfortable discussing issues affecting them and their families, such as divorce, parenting and legal advice services.

The mosque proposal, announced in May at a national conference organised by the MWC, followed an audit of facilities in Bradford's existing mosques. Bana Gora claimed services weren’t always adequate for women, and that muslim women have long been marginalised by “male dominated, patriarchal” mosques.

She said the audit revealed that access was the biggest problem, and that "women’s representation on governance structures was non-existent, on committees and boards, in segregated spaces that are dated and unwelcoming".

“There are various options that we are consulting on," she added. "The detail is being discussed with local, national and international scholars and experts. Our intention is not to be divisive, nor go against the values and principles of Islam, but to provide a space for the community which shows how women can lead and be included in places of worship and also impact positively on their families and communities."