UK mosques host Open Day following Paris attacks

UK mosques host Open Day following Paris attacks
In the wake of the Paris attacks, British mosques open their doors to raise awareness and improve community relations.
2 min read
01 February, 2015
Britain's larger mosques and centres opened their doors to the public on Sunday in an unprecedented gesture of reassurance following last month's Islamist attacks in Paris.

In around 20 mosques, visitors and community leaders were served tea and cakes by members of the mosque community, who were on hand "to answer questions about Muslims and Islam", the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella group which is organising the initiative, said in a statement.

"It's about breaking the barriers", Salman Farsi, spokesman at East London Mosque, told al-Araby al-Jadeed. "We come across people who don't even know they can come inside a mosque as non-Muslims." 

East London Mosque hosts three open days a year, but this is a national initiative that aims to raise awareness around the country. Muslim communities in the UK were vocal in condemning the Paris attacks "but we also needed some sort of action, and I think this is the best response", Farsi said.

The East London Mosque frequently gets non-Muslim visitors. "There's a hotel next to us so tourists keep popping in to have a look," Farsi said.  

Participating mosques include Finsbury Park in north London, where Abu Hamza - jailed in the US last month for terrorism offences and kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen - was once imam.

Since then, the Finsbury Park Mosque has changed leadership and ethos, and now stresses community relations and interfaith dialogue.

However, since the Paris attacks, it has received a string of threatening letters and emails, its secretary-general, Mohammed Kozbar, told Sky News television recently.

Prime Minister David Cameron's government sent a letter to Muslim leaders after the Paris attacks asking them to "explain and demonstrate how faith can be part of British identity" and suggesting there was "more work to do" in fighting extremism.

This prompted an angry response from the MCB, which questioned whether the government was aligning itself with the far-right by suggesting that Muslims were "inherently apart from British society".

Around five percent of people in England and Wales are Muslim, according to a 2011 census, and there are around 1,700 mosques across Britain.

- With extra reporting by AFP