Visiting your local mosque

Eid Mubarak everyone. Muslims will be celebrating another Eid with certain restrictions still continuing in places of worship. But it’s wonderful to see that many worshippers are returning to pray at their local mosques. This is why I invited Ed Davey to witness the hundreds praying outside in the court yard of Regents Park Mosque on the last Jumma (Arabic for Friday prayer) before Eid Al Adha. It was a touching moment for me as I have many beautiful memories of coming to the mosque, praying in the gardens at night during Ramadan and playing with friends in between Arabic lessons. My father was influential in supporting an Islamic studies school that still runs to this day every weekend for children. My father also held our regular Muslim Teachers’ Association meetings at the mosque and we attended every Eid here as a family, meeting many relatives and friends. So when I asked Ed Davey to visit the mosque, this wasn’t just a historical moment, it was personal. This mosque means a lot to me and thousands of Muslim families in London.

Mosques are more than just a place of worship, they are central to the local community and where during a crisis, or pandemic people gain support and guidance. Regent’s Park mosque just as many others places of worship in London were a driving force in supporting food banks and becoming testing and vaccination centres. The Faith sector panel – London resilience forum group (supported by the London Assembly) have been a vital source of contact during this difficult time. As one of the first female Muslim London Assembly members I want to highlight the work of many great initiatives run by faith leaders in London. Alongside the Deputy Mayor for Community Engagement, I want to do more to promote positive social cohesion projects, to work at grassroots level to encourage communication between communities. With rising levels of both islamophobia and anti-semitism in London, dealing with this issue as a hate crime is not enough. Real change comes from the communities themselves. And getting to know each other better is the first step.

So visiting a local mosque is a great start. Regent’s Park mosque is leading the way in encouraging interfaith projects, actively asking different faith groups to learn about their religion and mosque. And please don’t wait to be invited to your local mosque or to visit just before an election. This was our leader’s first official visit to this iconic mosque and he was joined by representatives from the Muslim Liberal Democrats and Westminster Lib Dems. It was a genuine step of listening and learning. A mosque built in the 40’s with the foundation stone laid by King George VI. Its history is intertwined with British history. This mosque is famous in the Islamic world and the Liberal Democrats have made an impact to Muslims in Britain due to this visit. Imagine if all local parties visited their local mosque too.

This party has a proud history of supporting Muslims, whether it was from campaigning against the Iraq War or being the first party to accept the APPG definition of Islamophobia, to having the first political leader fast during Ramadan, I believe we have a lot to offer Muslims in London and Britain and it’s time we made the effort to reach out and offer our genuine support.

From my family to yours, Eid Mubarak.

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

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  • Brad Barrows 20th Jul '21 - 10:28am

    I welcome this visit to a mosque but feel compelled to point out the double standards that appears to exist when politicians visit places of worship. If the visit is to a Christian church that adheres to traditional biblical interpretations regarding same-sex marriage, the politician can expect to be criticised for endorsing discrimination. However, a visit to a mosque that holds the same views never appears to attract criticism. I recall that Peter Tatchell led a protest outside Regent Park Mosque in 2018 so I am assuming the mosque holds to traditional views on same-sex marriage. As I say, I welcome this visit – I just wish politicians would be brave enough to treat all faith groups similarly in this regard.

  • William Wallace 20th Jul '21 - 12:30pm

    Brad Burrows: Liberal Democrats need to be careful not to slip towards an aggressively secular attitude to religious observance and organised religion – as some have. I grew up assuming that Liberalism and Roman Catholicism were incompatible – I remember my shock at meeting Geoff Tordoff for the first time and discovering that he was both. As with secular movements, religious organizations vary between the enlightened and tolerant and the reverse. But you have only to look at social movements on behalf of the poor and deprived in the UK, for example, to recognise that religious observance goes with concern for others and social responsibility – Muslims and Sikhs included. And inter-faith activities contribute to social (and national) integration. It’s a mark of how far the Conservatives have drifted to the right that the Church of England is now attacked as ‘left-wing’, and the Pope is criticised as too liberal.

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