#VisitMyMosque: UK Muslims open doors to fight bigotry

2017-02-05 22:19


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BirminghamHundreds of mosques around the UK threw open their doors to Britons as part of an initiative to counter misconceptions about the Muslim community.

More than 150 mosques took part in the "Visit My Mosque" project on Sunday afternoon, drawing crowds of curious visitors.

The event, organised by the Muslim Council of Great Britain (MCB), promised to answer attendees' questions. Visitors of all faiths and none were welcomed, and no subject was considered off limits.

At the Paigham-e-Islam mosque in Birmingham, conversations focused on Islamic law, known as Sharia, Muslims' views of Jesus, and what mosques were doing to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Tea and South Asian pastries were on offer for those who attended, as well as mosque tours and explanations of Islamic prayer rituals.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, took part in the event by visiting his local Finsbury Park mosque in London.

"Drinking tea together is far more effective than pouring concrete to build walls," he tweeted.

Adrees Sharif, a mosque member and MCB official, said the initiative aimed to strengthen the bond between Muslims and the communities they belong to.

Dialogue, not debate 

"We want to create dialogue instead of debate. When you're debating you're aiming to win an argument, but when you engage in dialogue you're sharing your beliefs," he said.

The number of mosques taking part in this year's event almost doubled from 82 last year to 150.

Sharif attributed the increase to an eagerness among Muslims to explain their beliefs amid rising far-right sentiment.

"Mosques understand the importance of engagement and are more willing to take part, not just because of [US President] Donald Trump, but the backlash after Brexit as well," Sharif explained. 

Trump in part followed through on his campaign pledge to ban all Muslims from entering the US by halting immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.

A federal judge has since halted Trump's order.

In the UK, attacks on Muslims have increased, alongside other xenophobic attacks, in the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU. 

Geoff Gallagher, who attended the event in Birmingham, said he had an "excellent" experience and recommended more frequent community-building exercises to help dispel negative stereotypes about Muslims.

"It should be advertised across the country to ensure that everybody understands that Muslims are not a violent religious group, and are part of [the wider community," he said.

Muslims make up 5% of the British population or just under three million people, with significant numbers concentrated in urban centres, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Bradford.

Around half of British Muslims are born in the UK.

Read more on:    uk  |  religion

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