By Al Qalam Reporter
Several mosques have signed up to participate in an innovative project called “National Mosque Open Day” – a campaign that will allow people of other faiths to visit masjids on Heritage Day (September 24) so that they can interact with Muslims and at the same time understand and learn about the principles of Islam.
The project, initiated by the Durban-based South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) has largely been welcomed from many quarters, including Ulama bodies.
The objective of the exercise is to welcome people of other faiths to our mosques in an effort to demystify Islam to them, especially in the wake of growing Islamophobia around the world. Visitors would be welcomed to participating mosques between 2pm to 4pm on Heritage Day – every year.
Dr Faizal Suleman, head of SAMNET said the idea was for mosque officials to warmly welcome people, take them on tours, explain Islamic values and prayer, answer questions and later get them to interact and enjoy light snacks in a friendly environment.
He said the ISIL terror group that committed wanton attacks on innocents in the name of Islam, has sparked suspicions about Muslims which triggered a backlash towards the community across the world. It was important that as a community that we should everything necessary to remove these prejudices”, Suleman said.
“This will allow us to build social relationships with other communities and give them the opportunity to learn about Islam and to understand what happens in the mosques and madressas. It will also give them an opportunity to ask questions and clear up misconceptions about Islam and Muslims,” he said.
Similar initiatives have worked successfully in the UK, parts of Europe, the USA, and more recently in Australia. Many people who visited Open Mosque Days to get “insider views” of “what went on inside masjids”, left feeling more enlightened. Many were grateful for the visits and ended up forging closer relationships with Muslims as a whole.
When several mosques in Australia opened their doors for visits by other faiths – during the backdrop of heightened terror threats by ISIS – the response was astounding, especially that many changed their perceptions of mistrust to one.
So far four mosques have confirmed their participation, but more were expected to join within the next two weeks. The confirmed mosques are Masjid-e-Sufi Subhani inNewlands West; Queensburgh Islamic Society, Juma’h Masjid, in the Durban CBD, and Masjid-ul-Mansur in Cape Town.
“We want to roll this out to all the large metropolitan areas and in time, InshaAllah, throughout Southern Africa”, Suleman added.
The campaign will consist of a uniformed format with display material, literature, booklets and CDs to be given to visitors as well as multi-media as resources allow.
Participants in the project would also get to invite local politicians, clerics and leaders of other faiths, civic leaders, community policing forum members and school principals – and make concerted efforts to forge cohesive relationships with them.