Mosques across UK open doors to public
February 7, 2016 5:01 pm
More than 90 mosques across the UK have opened their doors to visitors to allow Muslims to “explain their faith beyond the hostile headlines”.
The Muslim Council of Britain said it hoped Sunday’s open day would show unity in “a tense time for faith communities”.
Three times as many mosques took part this year as last year, it said.
There are about three million Muslims – about 5% of the population – and an estimated 1,750 mosques in the UK.
The mosques involved in the open day included those in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast.
The Visit My Mosque Day comes after supporters of the Pegida anti-Islam movement staged a silent march in Birmingham on Saturday.
The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt said fewer than 200 people turned up, but the protest was a sign of the fears over Islam that the open day is aimed at addressing.
The number of anti-Muslim attacks in London has risen since the attacks in Paris, with hundreds reported last year.
The golden dome and minaret of the Islamic Cultural Centre form a spectacular landmark, peeking through the trees on the western fringe of Regent’s Park.
Passersby may catch a glimpse of the magnificent chandelier that hangs above the mosque’s huge prayer room – today they were invited to venture inside for a closer look.
“My kids always talk about the building when we go past on the bus,” says lecturer Berit Eis, 42, who’s come with husband Paul and their children Soren, five, and Ellen, four.
“We don’t practice a religion but we live in a diverse community and I want them to be aware of different religions. The important thing is not belief, but respect.”
Jewish father and son David and Joel Greenbury heard about the day through their synagogue, and were intrigued to see afternoon prayers.
“I think there’s a lot of ignorance – people tend to not know about other groups,” says David. “As part of another minority religion in the UK, I can relate to that.”
The centre’s director, Dr Ahmed Al-Dubayan, says he hopes the event is a step towards “clearing away the clouds” of misunderstanding about his faith.\
The first of which, he says, is the misconception that today is the only day the mosque’s doors are open to outsiders.
“Really, they are open every day.”
Among visitors at the Regent’s Park Mosque open day were practicing Muslim Nadia Fattouki, 21 and her non-Muslim partner Ben Chappell, 26, both students.
Nadia said she had often encountered a lack of understanding about Islam.
“As a female, if I wear a veil, I have to explain that. I have to explain our inter-faith relationship.”