Mosque open day strives to dispel myths

Mosque open day strives to dispel myths

A MOSQUE in Batley was open to the public last Sunday to help dispel myths about Islam.

About 100 people, including teachers, families and church goers from as far afield as York, attended the Madina Masjid on Purlwell Lane.

It was part of a national Visit My Mosque Day organised by the Muslim Council of Britain.

Visitors were given tours, saw the Madressah Islamiyyah and took part in a question and answer session with imams.

Yunus Lunat, vice chairman of the mosque committee, said he hoped it would tackle prejudice.

Britain First protested in Dewsbury two weeks ago while the English Defence League could return to the area for the fourth time in five years.

Mr Lunat said: “Lots of people came last Sunday for a good old-fashioned chinwag.

“If you were to ask the public what they want out of life they would say they would want to be able to get on.

“They’d also want the same for their families and so do we – so ultimately we’re all the same.”

The madressah is where about 800 children learn about the Quran for two hours a night Monday to Friday and on some weekends.

Mr Lunat said it is similar to a large Christian Sunday school and added: “It’s how we keep in touch with our culture while integrating.”

Terrorism was dealt with and Mr Lunat said: “If you look at the people who’ve gone to fight in Syria there’s things that connect them.

“They either came to Islam later in life, found out on the internet or there was someone else behind them – they didn’t come through a madressah.”

Mr Lunat also challenged what he claims he heard while watching the Britain First rally.

It was alleged deputy leader Jayda Fransen said Zakat, the Islamic version of almsgiving in Christianity, is used to fund terrorism.

Mr Lunat said: “Zakat is for the poor and needy. Just one example is the floods in Cumbria.

“Mosques in Batley and Dewsbury raised more than £5,000 in just five days to help those affected.”

Batley Parish Church parishioner Graeme Rayner attended the Madina Masjid and Madressah Islamiyyah, above, in Batley last Sunday, just days after a think-tank branded the town “divided”. Here he details what he saw at the mosque...

THE format that worship takes does, at first, feel very different. However, the call to prayer that precedes the service for 15 minutes is designed to act as a reminder that worship is imminent, much like our church bells.

In 21st century life, the call to prayer is broadcast from the mosque directly into the homes of worshippers via an in-home receiver.

The services are led by an imam, in this case one who has led worship in Purlwell for over 35 years. I learned that imams study at home and abroad before qualifying and the imam I spoke with talked of feeling a calling, which many of our clergy will no doubt relate to.

In the wider sense, the similarities continued – the only paid members of the mosque are the two imams, with support coming from a committee of volunteers who assist with the day-to-day running of things, much like the work undertaken by our churchwarden team, PCC and working groups. The traditional Muslim greeting of “as-salaam-alaikum” means “peace be unto you”, and the response of “wa-alaikum-salaam” means “and upon you the Peace”. We Christians regularly share the peace with one another in our services.

In the madressah, children learn more about their faith. The main difference here is one of scale. The madressah has over 800 children who regularly attend, and they spend time there after school on weekdays and on Saturdays too. They learn Arabic and study the Quran in a setting which is dedicated entirely to this purpose – a kind of uber Sunday school.

We had planned to pop in and have a look and ended up staying for around three hours.

We were given a tour, observed classes in the madressah, speaking with Muslim scholars and the imam. All of this was followed, of course, by some food and drink together. It was, put simply, fantastic. During a question and answer session at the end, issues of community cohesion were gently probed.

It was explained that many mosques are concerned that by opening their doors they are opening themselves to the possibility of negative media coverage if someone says something that could be open to misinterpretation.

It is also clear that many people in the wider community still struggle to make distinctions between faith and politics, between what is happening daily in our local community to what is happening internationally and being piped into our homes on a daily basis.

The overwhelming sense I got was that we’re not very different. We want similar things for our community, and we seem to all agree it is “our” community – not them and us, but we.

For a full account of Graeme’s visit, see at www.batleyparishchurch.org/our-blog/4590364257.

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