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Tea, biscuits and common ground: UK mosques open their doors to the public

Members of the public and parliament, bishops and Ben and Jerry's all came out in support of the initiative to break down barriers
Worshippers at the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London (Wikimedia)

On Sunday, over 150 mosques across Britain participated in the third annual Visit My Mosque Day, opening their doors to the public.

The initiative, facilitated by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), aims to provide an avenue for Muslims to share their faith and beliefs with their fellow Britons beyond sensationalist media headlines.

MCB secretary general Harun Khan said at their national launch event: “We were... moved by the record numbers who came in solidarity with Muslims in the face of the hostile atmosphere they find themselves in.”

The Visit My Mosque Day initiative sees itself as a fun family-friendly way to break down barriers and bring communities together.

Widespread support 

The initiative received support from a number of faith leaders, including the bishops of Salford and of Liverpool who both attended the event.

The Bishop of Wolverhampton also not only attended, but encouraged other people to join him on his visit to two local mosques, saying that ”in the current political climate, building bridges rather than walls between communities is more important than ever.”

This year’s event had almost twice the number of mosques participating than last year, and more MPs attended the open day than ever before.

Leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the launch event at Finsbury Park Mosque in London, highlighting the dangerous nature of negative rhetoric and the importance of bringing together communities.

Corbyn also had a very British message for Trump.

The nationwide event received huge support on social media where attendees took to sharing heartfelt messages and pictures of their visits.

Labour MP David Lammy shared pictures of his visit to a mosque in Tottenham.

Ben and Jerry’s also endorsed the event.

As did Women’s March London.

Anti-Muslim hate crime

Anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK has increased significantly post-Brexit, and attacks in 2015 alone rose 326 percent.

The Brexit campaign has been accused of tainting the political and social climate in the UK through its percieved racist and Islamophobic rhetoric. This, coupled with Trump’s Muslim ban, has paved the way for an alarming rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes. 

Along with this rise in Islamophobia, there has also been a rise in the far-right across the world, with US President Donald Trump in particular being accused of normalising the politics of fear and mistrust.

OPINION: The far right may be rising, but don't give up hope: So is popular resistance 

This rise in divisive tactics and an increasing emphasis on "us" and "them" rhetoric has increased public interest in the truth about Muslims.

Initiatives like Visit My Mosque Day are designed specifically to tackle such misconceptions and provide a window into the lives of British Muslims, which are unremarkably similar to those of non-Muslims. 

Love Trumps hate

The tagline for the Visit My Mosque day initiative, is "No Walls. No Visas. All Welcome!"

In contrast with Trump’s Muslim ban, the MCB's Khan explained that the initiative “does not discriminate your entry based on your religion. Men, women and children of all faiths and none will be welcome.”

The response of the British public to the open day put paid to the notion that Islam and the West are incompatible. Over 150 mosques opened their doors to flocks of visitors, according to Khan.

(MCB)
Mosques were hopeful that non-Muslims would take this opportunity to demonstrate their solidarity with their Muslim neighbours in the face of rising Islamophobia - and they came out in their masses to do just that.

A spokesperson for Leeds Grand Mosque described the open day as “an opportunity to understand the Islamic faith from our perspective. For most non-Muslims, the only Islamic education they receive is through the media alone." 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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