As Trump tries to close America’s doors, Muslims are opening theirs on Visit My Mosque Day

People had interesting questions and concerns – Are women allowed to visit? Yes. Do women need to cover their hair? Not necessarily, but it might be nice to try it out. Can couples hold hands? I don’t see why not. What about LGBTQ visitors? All welcome, as the invitation says

Shelina Janmohamed
Sunday 05 February 2017 17:15
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Jeremy Corbyn. Visit My Mosque Day, Finsbury Park Mosque.
Jeremy Corbyn. Visit My Mosque Day, Finsbury Park Mosque.

“No walls, no visas. All welcome.” That was the strapline from the Visit My Mosque campaign this year, a now annual fixture in the British calendar. Visit My Mosque day is taking place across more than 150 masjids around the country today.

Our social and political climate has been infected by the toxic Brexit campaign which painted refugees, immigrants and Muslims as problematic, as well as Donald Trump’s controversial “Muslim ban”. Anti-Muslim hatred is escalating at an alarming rate, hand-in-hand with the rise of far-right parties who continue to peddle a hate-filled world view of “them” and “us”.

At this tense time, the invitation has resonated with a public that is keen to know more about Muslims. Many mosques say they haven’t been able to keep up with demand.

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People as far away as Malaysia and the USA are asking for similar local events. And no wonder, genuine decent and ordinary people have come out in the knowledge that we need to get to know each other better.

This is why events like Visit My Mosque day are so important. We are all – irrespective of faith and background – fed up of demagogues and hate peddlars dividing us. We know that actually we can get along quite well and live in peaceful, tolerant and celebratory societies.

People had interesting questions and concerns – Are women allowed to visit? Yes. Do women need to cover their hair? Not necessarily, but it might be nice to try it out. Can couples hold hands? I don’t see why not. What about LGBTQ visitors? All welcome, as the invitation says.

Visitors found out that mosques serve pastoral as well as religious needs. Alongside prayers and Ramadan gatherings, you’ll find food banks, soup kitchens and mother and toddler play groups. Newer mosques are being designed to be carbon neutral, or with theatres and restaurants for all the community – Muslim or not – to enjoy.

With so much anti-Muslim hysteria flying about, and words like “keeping us safe”, “security” and “radicalisation” constantly being tied to Islam and Muslims, taking ourselves away from fake news and alternative facts, and into the real world inhabited by human beings is a crucial strategy. That building at the end of your street – it’s not scary, it is full of people just like you.

In a fortnight when Trump has shut his doors to Muslims, we are opening ours. People coming together to learn more about each other is a wonderful site to behold.

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