Shropshire Star comment: Getting a close look at Islam
On the basis that prejudice is born of ignorance, if a chance to acquire new knowledge and insight arises, it makes sense to take advantage of it.
In Shropshire, secular Salopians and those of the Christian tradition or different faiths will mostly have a perception of the religion of Islam which has been significantly shaped by what they are told, or have heard.
So Visit My Mosque day on March 3 will be an opportunity for them to learn for themselves.
Rural south Shropshire may not be the sort of area that would conjure up a picture of being a hub for the Muslim community – that’s the ignorance kicking in again – so it may come as a surprise that Craven Arms is home to a mosque which draws worshippers from a vast swathe of south Shropshire and north Herefordshire.
It is taking part in Visit My Mosque day and the imam is hoping local people will come along so that they can see, and understand, what happens there.
The point he wants to get over is that it is not just a mosque that is in Craven Arms, but it is a mosque which is part of the local community.
“We want people to feel it is their mosque. It is the mosque of Craven Arms. You may not worship in there, but it is your mosque,” says Sohayb Peerbhai.
Most Salopians will have not set foot in a mosque and in the normal course of events would never do so, so being able to see inside for themselves will mean that some myths can be put to bed.
The context of the event will mean visitors will be able to chat with Muslims about their religion and ask questions. They will hear a positive story, a story to counter the image and stereotypes which endure.
The fact that there have been terrorist attacks carried out by individuals or organisations who associate themselves with Islam make it even more important to use the weapons of knowledge and learning to appreciate the perpetrators for what they are – extremists whose actions are abhorred and rejected.
It would be naive to think that open events like this will see racism melt away, but they play their part in tackling racism, by bringing people together – which is not what the racists are about.