Saying hello at a mosque breaks down barriers

Opening doors and saying hello is incredibly powerful. The gesture of being welcoming and having a chat can breakdown barriers, increase understanding and create opportunities. This is why I am so pleased that this weekend is #VisitMyMosque, a chance for anyone to visit their local mosque, ask questions and even make friends.

Since the pandemic, the event has been conducted online. Now that we can meet in person again, this is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to make the most of this great initiative. I was proud of a day I arranged for the London LibDems candidates to visit several mosques back to back, finishing at Regents Park Mosque.

This is the iconic Central London Mosque which was officially opened by King George VI in 1944. Ed Davey was the first LibDem leader to make an official visit there last year. He told the Iman ‘this was his chance to listen and learn’. This surely is the main message for all such visits.

You can also interact and engage at the VisitMyMosque events. Lots of interactive stalls and exhibitions have been arranged by the mosques and this weekend event, promoted by the Muslim Council of Britain, is the biggest mosque open event in Britain.

Islam is one of the largest religions in the UK. In London, 12.4% of the population is Muslim and 70 wards in the city have a Muslim population of 40% or more and yet islamophobia is rising towards Muslims. The UK Home Office figures from 2020-21 found 45% of hate crime targeted Muslims.

So this is wider than just going to an interesting building, this about building bridges. The MCB found that 70% of Britons hadn’t seen inside another faith’s place of worship and 90% hadn’t been in a mosque. This is why I am so passionate about interfaith work and why the charity I founded, the Naz Legacy Foundation, were the first to hold interfaith iftars with young Londoners, our most recent in the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

Breaking bread together is breaking barriers and opening doors is opening communities. I hope that you can all take the opportunity if not this Saturday and Sunday but another time to visit a mosque or a place of worship you have not been to before. There is so much wonder and joy when we learn from each other mostly because we often find that we have so much more in common than we thought.

* Hina Bokhari is a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly.

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