Thousands of Brits take part in #VisitMyMosque Day

26th Feb 2016
Thousands of Brits take part in #VisitMyMosque Day

(Photo: Warrington Islamic Association)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Over 80 mosques across the UK opened their doors to thousands of Britons on February 7, as part of annual ‘Visit My Mosque’ Day.

The first #VisitMyMosque Day was held on February 1, 2015, when some 20 mosques took part in the initiative coordinated by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to counter negative perceptions of Islam and educate people about the religion. Large and small mosques in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland offered tea and cakes, talks, videos, tours and demonstrations.

Speaking at the nationwide launch at London Central Mosque, MCB Secretary General, Dr Shuja Shafi, said, “We were struck how this initiative resonated so well with the British public last year. We found that there was a huge demand for this so decided to facilitate the event again this year, and we are pleased to have over 80 mosques are participating.”

Local mosques also invited inter-faith leaders, to come together to demonstrate unity and solidarity, while many visitors were just curious local residents. David from Hendon said, “I’ve driven for many years past London Central Mosque wondering what goes inside, but when I got an email telling me there was an open day, I decided to come today and visit.”

Posting on Facebook, Frances Stanfield said, “Just back from Medina Mosque Southampton. Lovely hosts and some interesting and open conversations.”

Tanvier Ahmed, Outreach Team at Darul Isra Mosque in Cardiff, said, “The majority of mosques have open doors so you can walk in at any time. Today we’re just making that extra special effort by putting on an event, but we welcome visitors throughout the year.”

Dr Salah Beltagui of the Muslim Council of Scotland, said, “We hope that such events are the start of new acquaintances between Muslims and their neighbours of other faiths or beliefs, and be a start of relationships and joint work to improve the lives of all communities in future.”

Mosques up and down the country invited local faith leaders and civic and political leaders. Many politicians participated at local mosques including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP, and other members of Parliament including Bob Blackman, Stella Creasey, Fabian Hamilton, Wes Streeting, James Flanagan and Rupa Huq.

More than 100 people came to East London Mosque, one of the largest in western Europe, in the first two hours of its open day. Groups were invited to watch a video about its history and were given copies of the Qur’an to take home. The visitors were taken into the prayer hall for a demonstration. By the end of the day, more than 250 people had visited the mosque.

The Shia Ithna’ashari Community of Middlesex (SICM) in North Harrow also took part in the annual initiative.

West Harrow MP Gareth Thomas praised the ongoing outreach work, as well as this specific open day: “I take great pride in having SICM in my constituency and being as active as you are.”

And he praised the vision of the community: “I look forward to the Salaam Centre finally becoming a reality…I think it’s going to be a wonderful centre. The vision is an open centre that everyone can access, is a great thing,” referring to the new building project of a community centre open-to-all that is currently undergoing construction at the site.

The event consisted of the sunset prayer translated on a screen, a recitation from the Qur’an and short speeches from leading members of the community including Rev David Tuck St Alban’s Church, Rev Jody Stowell, St Michael and All Angel’s Church, Rabbi Michael Hilton, Kol Chai Synagogue, Rev John Swarbrick, North Harrow Methodist Church and Councillor Rekha Shah, Deputy Mayor. Jack Lynes, Chair of Harrow Interfaith ended his words with a pledge that everyone read together, that “We will not stand by” in the growing climate of Islamophobia.

Hastings Mosque was filled with people of all backgrounds as part of a nationwide open day. Councillors, police officers and the public enjoyed the live prayer, question and answer session and the food.

Hastings Police posted on their Facebook page: “Many people came to the open day and took part in a Q and A session, live prayer, henna tattoos, amazing food and much more in a bid to see how Muslims connect to God, connect to communities and to the neighbours around them.”

Hastings Mayor Bruce Dowling thought the event went really well and that former councillor Jeremy Birch would have been proud. “Personally I think it went very well with an awful lot of people there, the non-Muslims probably outnumbered the Muslims which was great to see,” he said.

Two of the UK’s oldest mosques, the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, Surrey, and the Abdullah Quilliam Mosque in Liverpool also participated in this year’s event.

Over 100 people visited the Abdullah Quilliam Mosque on Brougham Terrace, Kensington, Liverpool, a building which first became a mosque in 1889.

Mumin Khan, 52, co-founder and chief co-ordinator of the Abdullah Quilliam society, said: “We invited our friends to open a dialogue about the Islamic faith. It is very important that our neighbours and Muslim friends understand how they can engage in the community.

“In this day and age, it is even more essential that we encourage understanding and tolerance.”

The latest census, from 2011, showed there were 2.7 million Muslims in the UK – about 4.5 per cent of the population. In December 2015, Scotland Yard recorded 158 Islamophobic hate crimes, more than double the figure of December 2014.

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