Visit My Mosque Day: Muslims open doors with tea and cakes for the unbelievers

The event was arranged after the Muslim Council of Britain raised concerns about anti-Muslim sentiment following the killing of 17 people in Paris last month

Pavan Amara
Sunday 01 February 2015 23:02
Comments
A cameraman walks past worshippers at the East London Mosque in Whitechapel yesterday. The mosque was one of 20 across the country participating in ‘Visit My Mosque Day’
A cameraman walks past worshippers at the East London Mosque in Whitechapel yesterday. The mosque was one of 20 across the country participating in ‘Visit My Mosque Day’

The crowd gathered at East London Mosque were not its typical worshippers – there was a mixture of atheists, agnostics and those who simply “wanted to meet the sort of Muslims who aren’t on the television”.

For some of the 50 or so visitors today, even matters as simple as “how you walk in and what you do” caused confusion – with one person admitting: “It’s all a bit alien.” It was to address this lack of knowledge among non-Muslims that led the mosque in Whitechapel, east London, to be one of 20 across the UK opening its doors to the public as part of “Visit My Mosque Day”, complete with tea and cakes. The event was arranged after the Muslim Council of Britain raised concerns about anti-Muslim sentiment following the killing of 17 people in Paris last month.

“I was curious,” said Horatio Waller, 23, a barrister from central London. “I wondered if Muslims had different values or an alien culture. But, I didn’t want to just walk in to a mosque.” For Tricia Montague, 56, from north London, she wanted to “stop a scary part of myself believing the propaganda.

“I work in the NHS and I’ve worked with Muslim colleagues for years. I’ve never had any doubts. But after France I could feel these niggling doubts rising,” she said. “I shocked myself because that’s not me. I was being drawn in, and I’ve come to remind myself of the reality.”

The afternoon began with a tour around the mosque, starting with the men’s prayer space, then the women’s prayer space, the women’s centre, and the visitor’s centre, with a brief history of the mosque opening in 1986.

The mosque has been targeted in the past by far-right groups. “Muslims were scared to come to the mosque at one point, because of the attacks,” said Mohammed Uddin-Anwar, a regular member of the congregation.

“Last month was difficult, but we know how to handle it better now. We started open days a few years ago, and I would overhear comments like ‘It looks normal.’ That’s because it is normal in here. The minds of crazy terrorists in Paris are what isn’t normal.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in