Muslims planning to open a new mosque in a traditionally Jewish north London community have joined people at their local synagogue to give blood as part of a national drive to help those in need.
Plans to turn the Hippodrome in Golders Green into a Muslim community centre in September after it was bought by the Centre for Islamic Enlightening caused a dispute in the local community.
Over 5,000 people signed a petition to oppose the planning application to have the building turned into a Muslim place of worship, while some people against the plans were accused of showing blatant Islamophobia over the issue. Barnet Council has not yet ruled on the planning application.
Despite the tensions, last month members of the new Golders Green Islamic Centre gave blood at the community’s local synagogue as part of Mitzvah Day, a faith-based day of social action promoting good deeds.
Mitzvah Day takes place during Interfaith Week and saw tens of thousands of people across the UK volunteer time to help elderly people, the homeless, refugees and other vulnerable people in their communities.
A spokesperson for action group said 1,200 projects were held in the UK as part of Mitzvah Day this year, with people from eight different faiths taking part including Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.
One event in London, at the South Hampstead High School, saw Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis help sort clothes for the Holy Trinity Shelter with English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic church Vincent Nichols. They were joined by the Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd Rob Wickham, Keir Starmer MP, Mitzvah Day’s Interfaith Chair Daniela Pears and school children of all faiths and none. The event also marked The Pope’s World Day of the Poor.
In Leicester, Muslims joined the local Jewish congregation to bake Jewish bread called challah and make place mats for the homeless.
Imam Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council, who joined the activity, said the day of social action “is important for the Muslim community to participate in. It gives us an excellent opportunity to get to know our Jewish brothers and sisters, as well as people of other faiths.”
Laura Marks OBE, who founded Mitzvah Day, claimed it is at grassroots level that interfaith social action makes a difference within communities: "The conversations people of different faiths and none, are having, often for the first time - whether while chopping onions or entertaining the elderly or giving blood side by side - are the key to making a better society.
"These conversations start to break down any mistrust, show how much we have in coming and often lead to genuine and lifelong friendships."
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