London, The Arab Weekly – “We were protesting against the Muslim ban at the anti-Trump rally [in London] yesterday. Today we are here,” said Jennifer White, a retired teacher from south London, gesturing around the courtyard of London’s Regent’s Park Mosque.
Located next to the park, in the heart of London, the mosque is known for its prominent golden dome. It was one of more than 150 across the United Kingdom that welcomed thousands of non-Muslim visitors on February 5th.
This was part of what has become an annual community bridge-building event — known as #VisitMyMosque — organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Britain’s largest Muslim umbrella body with more than 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
“We want to show that whatever might be happening in America or anywhere else in the world, we don’t accept that here,” White added.
One day earlier thousands of protesters marched from the US embassy in London to 10 Downing Street calling on British Prime Minister Theresa May to withdraw an invitation to US President Donald Trump for a state visit and denounce his ban of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States as racist. “No to Trump, no to War,” and “Stop Trump’s Muslim ban” placards read.
The protest, organised by a coalition of Muslim and anti-racist groups, including the MCB, expressed dismay at the emerging anti-Muslim sentiment across the Atlantic. “What Trump is doing is damaging the whole social fabric of our society,” Dilowar Khan, executive director of the East London mosque, told the crowd.
One day later, #VisitMyMosque was in full swing, with organisers saying they wanted to showcase “how mosques are great British institutions”, highlighting how local mosques are not just a spiritual focal point but also vital for people of all faiths by running food banks, feed-the-homeless projects, neighbourhood street clean-ups and much more.
“As the world recoils at President Trump’s so-called Muslim ban and now the mass killing at a mosque in Canada, #VisitMyMosque is a much-needed antidote to the poisonous atmosphere we find ourselves in,” said Harun Khan, secretary-general of the MCB.
He said the event was an opportunity for the British public, Muslim and non-Muslim alike to “come together and renew bonds of friendship” in a changing world.
“People as far away as Malaysia and the USA are asking for similar local events. And no wonder — genuine, decent and ordinary people have come out in the knowledge that we need to get to know each other better,” said British-Muslim author Shelina Janmohamed in an opinion piece in Britain’s Independent newspaper.
“This is why events like #VisitMyMosque day are so important. We are all — irrespective of faith and background — fed up of demagogues and hate peddlers dividing us… In a fortnight when Trump has shut his doors to Muslims, we are opening ours. People coming together to learn more about each other is a wonderful sight to behold,” said Janmohamed, author of the memoir Love in a Headscarf.
More MPs, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who visited his local Finsbury Park mosque, than ever before attended this year’s #VisitMyMosque gatherings, the third such event. “A gentle message to Trump: Drinking tea together is far better than building walls to keep us apart,” Corbyn posted on Twitter. “The Muslim community makes an enormous contribution to Britain,” he told event-goers.
The Labour MP for Slough, Fiona Mactaggart, visiting her local mosque Al Jannah, told visitors and Muslim volunteers that “we have more in common than what separates us”.
“It’s great that this mosque has opened its doors today but the circumstances in the world in which it has [are] unfriendly. We have just observed America targeting citizens of mainly Muslim countries [with] a ban on entry… that has come out of ignorance and fear and hostility,” she said.
This article was originally published here.