UK mosques’ open-door interfaith initiative returns

LONDON: The East London Mosque opened to the public on Sunday, giving people of all faiths the opportunity to explore places of worship, learn about Islam and ask questions.

More than 200 people across the country welcomed members of the local community over the weekend as part of the Muslim Council of England initiative “Visit My Mosque”.

The initiative, now in its seventh year, during which the event was actually held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is back on the ground after a two-year hiatus.

At the East London Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Europe, visitors can taste British staples of tea and cakes, as well as visit and view a special exhibition of Koranic manuscripts.

On Sunday, tourists will visit the East London Mosque. (Abdulmukis Ahmed)

Attendees were able to explore displays of mosque archives, which document early translations of the Quran, and hear community leaders share inspiring messages about neighborhood relationships.

They will also be able to witness midday or Dhuhr prayers in a special viewing gallery and listen to the adhan or call to prayer, which is especially relevant considering the mosque was the first in the UK to broadcast it through public speakers.

One women’s booth allowed them to try on hijabs in a variety of colors and patterns, and at another, people could write their names in Arabic calligraphy.

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On Sunday, women can choose their scarves at the East London mosque. (Abdulmukis Ahmed)

A corner dedicated to TED-style talks lets participants discuss misconceptions about Islam, the Quran, and what it’s like to be a Muslim in the UK.

Nathan Gubbins, a political and engagement officer at the East London Mosque, gave a speech on the Quran.

“We want to introduce Islam to non-Muslims in a palatable way. Today we have a range of religious figures here talking about Islamic topics such as the Oneness of Allah, the Quran and women in Islam. In the last section I will talk about Becoming a Muslim in the UK, my experience and that of other converts and how Islam exists in the UK,” Gubbins told Arab News.

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Nathan Gubbins, a political and engagement officer at the East London Mosque, gave a speech on the Quran. (Abdulmuqis Ahmed) photo caption

Colin John, a healthcare specialist specialising in mental health, who attended the event with his Muslim friends, said he had been interested in Islam “for a long time”. He was “particularly impressed by the inclusiveness of Islam”.

“I think it’s great that the East London Mosque is open and I’m delighted to be here because I respect my dear Muslim friends who invited me so well.

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On Sunday, visitors heard an explanation of documents from the East London Mosque Archives. (Abdulmukis Ahmed)

“But what impressed me in particular about the introductory course was the inclusiveness of Islam and how other prophets and other belief systems were accepted as far as I know.

“In a disruptive world so focused on difference, it’s really heartwarming to hear about inclusivity,” John said.

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On Sunday, tourists will visit the East London Mosque. (Abdulmukis Ahmed)

Another attendee, Kirsty Gentle, said she was delighted to witness the mosque’s connection to nature.

Since 2011, the mosque has been home to several beehives, most of which have been kept on the roof of the London Muslim Centre, which is part of a place of worship.

“I think I’m really interested in bees,” the community engagement officer said.

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The East London Mosque has been home to several beehives since 2011. (East London Mosque)

“It was really lovely to see the whole building. I also went to the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking and it was very important to take the opportunity to learn about different cultures and religions,” Gentle said.

British Empire Medalist Prof. Muhammad AS Abdel Haleem gave a brief speech on his translation of the Koran into English. The famous scholar’s translation is read by people all over the world.

He praised the mosque’s activity on Sunday and said he was “pleased” to see non-Muslims welcomed.

“We should try to encourage non-Muslims to visit this spacious and pleasant mosque,” Abdul Halim said.

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Professor Muhammad AS Abdel Haleem gave a brief speech on the Quran at the East London Mosque on Sunday. (Abdulmukis Ahmed)

Dilovar Khan, director of engagement at the East London Mosque, told Arab News the event was “a great opportunity for people to better understand Muslims and the Islamic faith”.

“Muslim representation in the media is often inaccurate and misleading. We hope that opening our doors also opens hearts and minds,” Khan said.

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Rare copy of the Quran on display at East London Mosque. (Abdulmukis Ahmed)

“Mosques and Islamic centres across the country play an important role in a healthy, cohesive society. For example, we continue to host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic that is open to all, and we also run a food bank to help our community those most in need, especially in these challenging times.

“On ‘​​Visit My Mosque’ day, our staff and volunteers look forward to showing visitors what’s inside our mosque and answering their questions,” he said.

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MCB Secretary General Zara Mohammed poses with Boy Scouts serving fresh lemonade to visitors at the East London Mosque. (Abdulmukis Ahmed)

Zara Mohammed, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of England, told Arab News that the “Visit My Mosque” events held across the country “will allow guests to connect with the local Muslim community and gain a deeper understanding of who Muslims are and their sacred spaces. what it means to them and the contribution of the Muslim community to British society.”

“Now in its seventh year, ‘Visit My Mosque’ continues to see mosques open their doors to the local community in what has become the UK’s largest mosque open house event.

“In doing so, participating mosques provide space for the development of positive dialogue, understanding and friendship, while also helping to challenge misconceptions about Islam and Muslims,” ​​Mohammed said.

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