Britons #VisitMyMosque one day after Trump protest

Known as #VisitMy­Mosque, annual community bridge-build­ing event is organised by Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

Demonstrators hold a banner during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban in London, on January 30th. (AP)


2017/02/12 Issue: 93 Page: 16


The Arab Weekly
Mahmud el-Shafey



London - “We were protesting against the Mus­lim ban at the an­ti-Trump rally [in London] yester­day. Today we are here,” said Jen­nifer White, a retired teacher from south London, gesturing around the courtyard of London’s Regent’s Park Mosque.

Located next to the park, in the heart of London, the mosque is known for its prominent golden dome. It was one of more than 150 across the United Kingdom that welcomed thousands of non-Mus­lim visitors on February 5th.

This was part of what has become an annual community bridge-build­ing event — known as #VisitMy­Mosque — organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Britain’s largest Muslim umbrella body with more than 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.

“We want to show that whatever might be happening in America or anywhere else in the world, we don’t accept that here,” White add­ed.

One day earlier thousands of protesters marched from the US embassy in London to 10 Down­ing Street calling on British Prime Minister Theresa May to withdraw an invitation to US President Don­ald Trump for a state visit and de­nounce his ban of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States as rac­ist. “No to Trump, no to War,” and “Stop Trump’s Muslim ban” plac­ards read.

The protest, organised by a coa­lition of Muslim and anti-racist groups, including the MCB, ex­pressed dismay at the emerging anti-Muslim sentiment across the Atlantic. “What Trump is doing is damaging the whole social fabric of our society,” Dilowar Khan, ex­ecutive director of the East London mosque, told the crowd.

One day later, #VisitMyMosque was in full swing, with organisers saying they wanted to showcase “how mosques are great British institutions”, highlighting how lo­cal mosques are not just a spiritual focal point but also vital for people of all faiths by running food banks, feed-the-homeless projects, neigh­bourhood street clean-ups and much more.

“As the world recoils at President Trump’s so-called Muslim ban and now the mass killing at a mosque in Canada, #VisitMyMosque is a much-needed antidote to the poi­sonous atmosphere we find our­selves in,” said Harun Khan, secre­tary-general of the MCB.

He said the event was an oppor­tunity for the British public, Muslim and non-Muslim alike to “come to­gether and renew bonds of friend­ship” in a changing world.

“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,” said British-Muslim author Shelina Janmohamed in an opinion piece in Britain’s Inde­pendent newspaper.

“This is why events like #Visit­MyMosque day are so important. We are all — irrespective of faith and background — fed up of dema­gogues and hate peddlers dividing us… 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 sight to be­hold,” said Janmohamed, author of the memoir Love in a Headscarf.

More MPs, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who visited his local Finsbury Park mosque, than ever before attended this year’s #VisitMyMosque gatherings, the third such event. “A gentle mes­sage to Trump: Drinking tea togeth­er is far better than building walls to keep us apart,” Corbyn posted on Twitter. “The Muslim community makes an enormous contribution to Britain,” he told event-goers.

The Labour MP for Slough, Fio­na Mactaggart, visiting her local mosque Al Jannah, told visitors and Muslim volunteers that “we have more in common than what sepa­rates us”.

“It’s great that this mosque has opened its doors today but the cir­cumstances in the world in which it has [are] unfriendly. We have just observed America targeting citizens of mainly Muslim countries [with] a ban on entry… that has come out of ignorance and fear and hostility,” she said.


Mahmud el-Shafey is an Arab Weekly correspondent in London.


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