LONDON – Muslim leaders in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland visited churches, synagogues, Hindu and Sikh temples in interfaith solidarity amid rising hate crime.
“It was a privilege to visit the West London Synagogue today. It was great to hear about the similarity of the Jewish religious services to my own faith as a Muslim, alongside the synagogue’s active outreach programs for refugees and the homeless,” Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said in a statement published on MCB website.
“I strongly encourage more of my fellow Muslims to visit other faith institutions as this will only make our bonds stronger as we have more in common than what divides us.”
Leaders from the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Council of Wales, Muslim Council of Scotland and Belfast Islamic Centre made the visits to Churches, Synagogues, Mandirs, and Gurdwaras to share common experiences with their Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh neighbors.
The visits come in the week where over 250 mosques across the UK will be opening their doors to the public on #VisitMyMosque day on Sunday 3 March.
After the Muslim Council of Scotland’s visit to Glasgow Gurdwara, a Gurdwara volunteer commented that “Sikhism is a religion of compassion and of sharing. Our Langar (open kitchen) is free for everyone in the community to come along and share a meal together. We are always happy for people to come along to the Gurdwara and we enjoy sharing our faith with them’.
Reverend David Compton of the Methodist Agape Centre in Belfast, who hosted representatives from Belfast Islamic Centre, spoke of the importance of building bridges.
Rabbi Helen Freeman of West London Synagogue added, “We value the building of bridges of understanding with those of all faiths. So it was my particular pleasure to welcome visitors from the Muslim Council of Britain as we look forward to celebrating ‘Visit My Mosque’ day on Sunday 3rd March”.
Executive Director of The Inter Faith Network for the UK, Dr. Harriet Crabtree, said this: “Mutual exchange of visits to community places of worship is an important part of the building and strengthening good interfaith relations. These visits arranged in connection with Visit My Mosque are a significant demonstration of this.”
The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella organization, representing more than 500 institutions and mosques and holds annual events such as Visit My Mosque Day that aim to unite communities across the UK.
In the last three years, there has been a sharp rise in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK with 2017 having a record number of attacks against Muslims. In 2018 there were over 1,200 reports of Islamophobic attacks, a 26 percent surge from the previous year.
Islamophobic incidents have risen significantly due to a number of factors such as Brexit and the proliferation of far-right groups manipulating misconceptions on immigration and faith.