SHAFAQNA – In a bid to tackle rising Islamophobia across the United Kingdom, The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has organised a “Visit my mosque” day next month, with over 80 mosques opening their doors to non-Muslims.
The mosques will be opening their doors to non-Muslims on February 7.
“It’s an opportunity for Muslims in the UK to put themselves out there and reach out to their local neighbours,” an MCB spokesperson told Al Jazeera.
“The day will allow for people to meet face-to-face, get to know each other and tackle misconceptions”, he added.
Visitors will be welcomed to ask questions, go on guided tours and have tea and snacks with volunteers and those who run the mosques.
Muslims constitute 2.7 million of the UK’s population of 64 million. Around half of British Muslims are born in the UK.
“We hope that the achievement will be that people of different faiths, and those with none, will better understand us, and we will be more integrated with everybody,” Abdul Majid, chairman of the participating Camberley Mosque said.
Camberley Mosque in Surrey, south east of England usually hosts around 300 people for Friday prayers.
Further, Majid explains, “We live in a small town, so we don’t have many problems in this area. But there has been some misunderstanding in the media about Muslims, and this is the whole reason we are doing this day to foster understanding.”
A significant rise has been seen in anti-Muslim sentiment following the Paris attacks carried out by the Islamic State. The Metropolitan Police, which is responsible for Greater London, has reported a sharp increase in hate crimes against Muslims.
The month of December 2015 alone recorded more than a 158 offences in London; three times higher than the 50 hate crimes recorded in December 2014.
“I’ve been in situations where people swear at me because I’m a Muslim,” Fatima Manjra, a volunteer at Leicester’s Darul Arqam Mosque, another mosque taking part in the event, told Al Jazeera.
“I was just driving home from work one day, and some people cursed, calling me a f—— ‘raghead’. I was on my own, I had to stay calm”, she added.
“I didn’t report it [the incident]. I didn’t know if it was worth reporting at the time…we’re not safe from this [Islamophobia].”
An open-door mosque event was also organised last year in Britain with only 20 or so mosques participating; and earlier in January, France held a similar open-door event to encourage integration.
“It’s incredibly important right now, given the negative attention Muslims receive in the media,” said Manjra.
“If you open a building up and show its social value, people will see that we are normal people just trying to get by. I hope people will see that there is nothing that we are hiding.”