More than 90 mosques across the UK have recently opened their doors to visitors to allow Muslims to “explain their faith beyond the hostile headlines”.
The Muslim Council of Britain has said that it hoped the opening, which took place only last month, would show unity in “a tense time for faith communities”. It also stated that three times as many mosques took part this year compared to last year.
There are about three million Muslims, which is around 5% of the population, living in the UK and an estimated 1,750 mosques. The mosques involved in the open day include those in Manchester, London, Birmingham, 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 6 January. Reportedly fewer than 200 people attended but the protest was a signifier of the fears over Islam, and the open day aims to address these fears. The number of anti-Muslim attacks in London has risen since the brutal attacks in Paris, with hundreds of attacks being reported last year.
Lecturer Berit Eis attended an opening at a mosque with her husband and children and has been speaking of its importance, she stated, “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. They said, “I think there’s a lot of ignorance – people tend not to know about other groups. As part of another minority religion in the UK, I can relate to that”.
The director of central London’s Islamic Cultural Centre, Dr Ahmed Al-Dubayan, has said that he hopes the event is a step towards “clearing away the clouds” of misunderstandings surrounding his faith. The first of which, he says, is the misconception that today is the only day that the mosque’s doors are open to outsiders, he revealed, “Really, they are open every day”.
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