Radio Sandwell News

Open days at Mosques to ease tensions

2015-02-02 16:00:54

Mosques across Britain have opened their doors to the public, in an attempt to bring communities together and alleviate tensions about terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks.

More than 20 venues would be serving tea and cakes to visitors who want to understand more about Islam, said the Muslim Council of Britain, which organised Sunday's Visit My Mosque event.

The organisation said it was "to demonstrate unity and solidarity during what has been a tense time for faith communities".

The Council's Secretary General Shuja Shafi told Sky News: "We thought it was important that non-Muslims look at what happens behind the doors at mosques, and demystify if there are any worries."

He added: "Because of the 'negative publicity' of Islam and the perception, it was important to open the doors so people could come and look at it themselves and see what happens.

Video: 'Important To Demystify Mosques'

"Mosques are not just places of worship. They are a hub for the community. People can see a wide range of activities and this demonstration will help community cohesion."

The Finsbury Park mosque in north London, where radical cleric Abu Hamza was once imam, was among those taking part.

Hamza was jailed in New York for terrorism offences last month, and in recent years, the place of worship has undergone a change of leadership, with a renewed emphasis on inter-faith dialogue.

But after the attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket in Paris by gunmen who claimed they were acting to revenge insults against the Prophet Mohammed, the mosque said it had received threats.

The mosque's General Secretary Mohammed Kozar told Sky News: "Most of them are nasty drawings about our prophet and our books.

"Some of them make death threats against our community, so it's quite frightening for our community and our mosque."

The shootings by three gunmen, who claimed they were operating on behalf of Islamic State and Al Qaeda in Yemen, prompted Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to write to the Britain's mosques urging them to do more to root out extremists and prevent young people being radicalised. 

Sunday's outreach programme at the mosques followed the killing of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto by Islamic State jihadists.

Former army chief Lord Dannatt told Sky News' Dermot Murnaghan that the best way to combat extremist ideology was for communities to work together. 

"It's really important that our communities - particularly where there are large Muslim populations - organise themselves and conduct matters in such a way that particularly young Muslims have a stake in the future of this country, and this country has a future in them," he said.


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