Over 200 UK mosques opened their doors to visitors including Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Mosques across Britain plan to build on the successes of this weekend’s Visit My Mosque day to reach out to even more members of society amid negative perceptions of Islam.
Key figures from British public life, including the Prime Minister Theresa May, were among visitors who were served homemade cakes, given guided tours and heard the Quran at one of over 200 mosques on Sunday.
The initiative, led by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and now in its fourth year, came after figures released last week revealed that 90 percent of Britons had never visited a mosque, and 70 percent had not been to a house of worship belonging to another faith.
Brilliant to see our Prime Minister @theresa_may attend a mosque in Maidenhead (@islamic_trust) for the #VisitMyMosque day facilitated by the @MuslimCouncil h/t @MrSimonDudley. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/y9Nb2SpG4S
— Miqdaad Versi (@miqdaad) February 18, 2018
Mosque leaders have told MEE that while the event was a success, there is still a long way to go.
“People who are friendly towards Muslims are coming, but we need to reach people who live in the suburbs who won’t have interaction with Muslims,” said Dilowar Khan, executive director of the East London Mosque, which offered guests refreshments yesterday.
Khan said that while the mosque's debts prevented it from realising plans to develop social welfare projects, an adjoining synagogue recently purchased by the mosque would soon become a centre for interfaith activities.
Figures show that between May 2013 to June 2017, 167 mosques were attacked - a rate of one per week - including the attempted bombing of three mosques in the West Midlands in 2013.
We’re not so much shoving Qurans down people’s throats, we’re allowing them to come with their questions and to address their misconceptions
- Imam Ali Hammuda of Al-Manar mosque in Cardiff
There was also a spike in Islamophobic incidents following militant attacks in the UK last year, which killed more than 30 people and included a far-right attack which killed a Muslim in Finsbury Park.
Khan said that his mosque, one of Europe’s largest, already offers guided tours each day to schools, colleges, social workers and the police, but acknowledged that “we need to target people who have negative perceptions about the mosque”.
Imam Ali Hammuda of Al-Manar mosque in Cardiff said that regardless of Islamophobia, “Muslims have an obligation to show the world that we are a part of it and are not separate.
“I believe that the majority of these misconceptions are harboured be people limited in their contact with the Muslim community.
“We’re not so much shoving Qurans down people’s throats, we’re allowing them to come with their questions and to address their misconceptions.”
@CardiffNewsPlus Almanar Mosque in Cardiff opened their doors for everyone to visit and learn about Islam and see how Muslims worship . Free literature and food available with live video stream from Makkah. pic.twitter.com/dGbZ3lyVOc
— Iftekhar kashmiri (@iftekhar_MAIJ) February 18, 2018
Almanar, which put on an exhibition about the basics of Islam as part of its open mosque day, is now planning to step up their community outreach by hiring a building to permanently host it, he said.
Hammuda said the mosque also plans to visit those who attended and were wheelchair-bound or in palliative care on a weekly basis to help “remove the sense of loneliness and alienation that they experience”.
Hammuda's vision of a mosque harks back to the days of Prophet Muhammad whose early mosque in Madina was more than just a place of worship.
“The mosque has a pivotal role not just on a theological level. At the time of Prophet Muhammad, who we try to emulate, it was a place of education, a place where ambassadors met, a place of entertainment, a place of refuge.”
But ultimately outreach should not just be left for the mosque to do but should happen in our everyday encounters, he said.
“[Visit My Mosque Day] should not be replicated just at the mosque level but any institution with a Muslim identity. Every person, every family should open their doors to their neighbours to lessen the widening gap between Muslims and the rest of society.”