The mosque (also known by Muslims as Masjid) has always been a central meeting hub for the Muslim community, its primary purpose being a place of peaceful contemplation and worship. Common features are wash areas for hygiene and cleanliness, a central ‘Mihrab’ to indicate the direction of prayer and a pulpit from which the Friday sermon is delivered by the Imam.
The modern-day British mosque is rapidly developing and expanding the number of people and communities it serves. Building on the rich historical legacy as important centres for education, learning and social support, today, the mosque not only serves Muslims, it caters for the whole community.
Particularly important is the support offered to people who are vulnerable, frail and those who have been left behind. This is evident from the significant charitable works that mosques are often engaged in. More recently they have supported the NHS by promoting public health messaging and being vital COVID-19 vaccination centres, reaching those who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
They have also been at the forefront of interfaith work thriving to calm tension and build bridges in an ever broken system and society.
People who still feel threatened by the mosques, perceiving them as insular or holding suspicions of what goes on in them, are sadly behind the times – one that is dated and a diminishing minority view. They should take advantage of the large number of ‘visit your mosque’ open days on offer and go visit and see what is happening for themselves.
For example, the KarimIa institute mosques in Nottingham are based in one of the most disadvantaged boroughs in the country. Throughout lockdown, people of all faiths have realised how valuable the mosque has been in times of need.
Working with local support organisations they have offered people much needed hope, inspiration and means to help their neighbours. Not only have they engaged in much needed charitable works, but they are also important vaccination centres for the local community – keeping everyone safe.
It is through these activities that the modern mosques in Britain should be viewed, one that seeks to build bridges, trust and friendships.