UK mosques’ open-door interfaith initiative returns

UK mosques’ open-door interfaith initiative returns
Visitors are given a tour of the East London Mosque on Sunday. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)
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Updated 07 September 2022

UK mosques’ open-door interfaith initiative returns

UK mosques’ open-door interfaith initiative returns
  • Qur’an manuscripts, calligraphy, beehives part of London tour
  • “Space for positive conversation and friendship”: MCB secretary general  

LONDON: The East London Mosque opened its doors to the public on Sunday, giving people of all faiths the opportunity to explore the place of worship, learn about Islam, and ask questions.

As part of a Muslim Council of Britain initiative called “Visit My Mosque,” more than 200 across the country welcomed members of local communities over the weekend.

The initiative is in its seventh year and is back in person after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic during which the event was held virtually.

At the East London Mosque, one of the largest in Europe, visitors were treated to British staples tea and cake, given tours, and were able to view a special Qur’an manuscripts exhibition.




Visitors are given a tour of the East London Mosque on Sunday. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)

Attendees were able to explore a display of the mosque’s archives chronicling early Qur’an translators and listen to community leaders who shared inspiring messages of neighborliness.

They were also able to witness the midday or Dhuhr prayer being performed from a special viewing gallery, and listen to the adhan, or call to prayer, which is particularly pertinent considering the mosque was the first in the UK to broadcast it through public speakers.

A stand for women allowed them to try on headscarves in a variety of colors and patterns and people could have their names written in Arabic calligraphy at another.




Women could take their pick of scarves at the East London Mosque on Sunday. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)

A corner dedicated to TED-style talks had participants discuss misconceptions about Islam, the Qur’an, and what it feels like to be a Muslim in Britain.

Nathan Gubbins, who works at the East London Mosque as a politics and engagement officer, delivered a talk about the Qur’an.

“We’re looking to introduce Islam in a palatable way to non-Muslims. We have a range of religious figures here today talking about Islamic topics such as the oneness of God, the Qur’an, and women in Islam. In the final session, I’ll be talking about being Muslim in Britain, my experience as well as the experiences of other converts, and how Islam can exist in the UK,” Gubbins told Arab News.




Nathan Gubbins, who works at the East London Mosque as a politics and engagement officer, delivers a talk about the Qur’an. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)Caption

Colin John, a healthcare professional who specializes in mental health, attended the event with his Muslim friends and said he has been interested in Islam “for a long time.” He was “particularly impressed with the inclusiveness of Islam.”

“I think it’s great that the East London Mosque has opened its doors, and I am glad to come because I have regard for my dear Muslim friends and they were good enough to invite me.




Visitors listen to an explanation of documents from the East London Mosque’s archives on Sunday. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)

“But what particularly impressed me with the introduction course was the inclusiveness of Islam, and how, from what I understand, other prophets and other belief systems are embraced.

“And in a world where there is such damaging focus on difference, it is really warming to hear inclusiveness,” John said.




Visitors are given a tour of the East London Mosque on Sunday. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)

Another attendee, Kirsty Gentle, said she was pleased to witness the mosque’s connection to nature firsthand.

The mosque has been home to several beehives since 2011 and most of them are kept on the roof of the London Muslim Centre which is part of the place of worship.

“I guess I’m really interested in the bees,” the community engagement officer said.




The East London Mosque has been home to several beehives since 2011. (East London Mosque)

“It’s just really lovely to see the whole building. I’ve also been to the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, and its super important to take this opportunity and learn about different cultures and religions,” Gentle said.

Prof. Muhammad A. S. Abdel Haleem, recipient of the Order of the British Empire, delivered a short talk on the Qur’an which he has translated into English. The renowned scholar’s translation is read by people across the globe.

He praised the mosque for Sunday’s event and said he was “delighted” to see non-Muslims being welcomed.

“We should try to encourage non-Muslims to visit the mosque which is so spacious and pleasant,” Abdel Haleem said.




Prof. Muhammad A. S. Abdel Haleem delivers a short talk on the Qur’an at the East London Mosque on Sunday. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)

Dilowar Khan, director of engagement for the East London Mosque, told Arab News the event was a “wonderful opportunity for people to get a better understanding of Muslims and the Islamic faith.”

“Often the representation of Muslims in the media has been inaccurate and misleading. We hope that opening our doors will also open hearts and minds,” Khan said.




A rare copy of the Qur’an is displayed at the East London Mosque. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)

“Mosques and Islamic centers across the country play an important role in a healthy, cohesive society. For example, we continue to host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, which is open to all, and we also run a food bank to help the most needy in our communities, especially in these challenging times.

“For ‘Visit My Mosque’ day, our staff and volunteers look forward to showing visitors what it’s like inside our mosque, and answering their questions,” he said.




The MCB’s Secretary General Zara Mohammed poses with scouts who were serving visitors fresh lemonade at the East London Mosque. (Abdulmukith Ahmed)

The Muslim Council of Britain’s Secretary General Zara Mohammed told Arab News that the “Visit My Mosque” events held around the country “will allow for guests to connect with local Muslim communities, and gain a deeper sense of who Muslims are, what their sacred spaces mean to them, and the contributions of Muslim communities to British society.”

“Now in its seventh year, ‘Visit My Mosque’ continues to see mosques open their doors to local communities, in what has become the largest mosque open-day event in the UK.

“In doing so, participating mosques provide a space for positive conversation, understanding and friendship to develop, whilst also helping challenge misconceptions around Islam and Muslims,” Mohammed said.


Ukraine’s Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones

Ukraine’s Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones
Updated 57 min 4 sec ago

Ukraine’s Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones

Ukraine’s Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones
  • The strikes come two days after two civilians were killed in Odessa in a Russian attack with an Iranian-made drone

KYIV: Ukraine said Sunday that the southern port city of Odessa was attacked by Iranian-made drones overnight, two days after a Russian attack with such a weapon killed two civilians.
“Odessa was attacked again by enemy kamikaze drones,” said the Ukrainian army’s Operational Command South.
“The enemy hit the administrative building in the city center three times,” it said in a Facebook message.
“One drone was shot down by (Ukrainian) air defense forces. No casualties (were) recorded,” it said.
“These were Iranian drones,” a Ukrainian South Command spokeswoman, Natalya Gumenyuk, later told AFP.
The strikes come two days after two civilians were killed in Odessa Friday in a Russian attack with an Iranian-made drone.
Four Iranian-made drones were shot down in the south of the country Friday, according to Ukraine’s armed forces.
Kyiv said later it decided to reduce Iran’s diplomatic presence in Ukraine over its supply of drones to Russia.
“In response to such an unfriendly act, the Ukrainian side decided to deprive the ambassador of Iran in Ukraine of accreditation, as well as to significantly reduce the number of diplomatic personnel of the Iranian embassy in Kyiv,” said Ukraine’s foreign ministry.
A foreign ministry official told AFP that the move amounted to expulsion as the ambassador was not in Ukraine and therefore could not be expelled.
“The use of Iranian-made weapons by Russian troops... are steps taken by Iran against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state, as well as against the life and health of Ukrainian citizens,” a spokesman for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sergii Nykyforov, said on Friday.


Molotov cocktail attack against Iran embassy in Athens

Molotov cocktail attack against Iran embassy in Athens
Updated 25 September 2022

Molotov cocktail attack against Iran embassy in Athens

Molotov cocktail attack against Iran embassy in Athens
  • Two people riding a motorcycle with their faces covered hurled the weapon on the wall of the embassy
  • No damage was caused

ATHENS: A Molotov cocktail bomb was thrown against the Iranian embassy in Athens on Sunday, Athens News Agency reported.
According to Greek police, at around 1:00 am local time (2200 GMT on Saturday), two people riding a motorcycle with their faces covered hurled the weapon on the wall of the embassy where it exploded.
No damage was caused.
On Saturday afternoon, around 200 people gathered at Syntagma Square in downtown Athens to denounce Iran’s crackdown on protests following the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the country’s notorious morality police.
Iranian women cut their hair in a gesture of solidarity with Amini, brandishing placards reading “say her name!.”


Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ trial to open in The Hague

Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ trial to open in The Hague
Updated 25 September 2022

Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ trial to open in The Hague

Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ trial to open in The Hague
  • Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 after evading police in several countries for the last quarter of a century

THE HAGUE: Alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga will go on trial in The Hague on Thursday, one of the last key suspects in the 1994 ethnic slaughter that devastated the small central African nation.
Kabuga’s trial will open at 0800 GMT before a UN tribunal, where he has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the massacres 28 years ago of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Prosecutors and the defense are expected to make their opening statements on Thursday and Friday, with evidence in the case to start the following Wednesday.
Kabuga’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea to the charges at a first appearance in 2020.
Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, prosecutors say the octogenarian allegedly helped set up hate media that urged ethnic Hutus to “kill Tutsi cockroaches” and funded militia groups in 1994.
Now in his mid-80s, Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 after evading police in several countries for the last quarter of a century.
He was then transferred to the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, set up to complete the work of the now defunct Rwanda war crimes tribunal.
Said to be in fragile health, Kabuga in August appeared before the judges in a wheelchair — and it was not known whether he’ll be in court on Thursday as judges are permitting him to attend the hearings via a video link.
Kabuga was originally scheduled to appear in court in Arusha, where the other arm of the IRMCT — also referred at as the MICT — resides, but judges had ruled he would remain in The Hague “until otherwise decided.”
In June, the judges denied a defense objection, ruling Kabuga was indeed fit to stand trial.

The UN says 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda in 1994 in a 100-day rampage that shocked the world.
An ally of Rwanda’s then-ruling party, Kabuga allegedly helped create the Interahamwe Hutu militia group and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), whose broadcasts incited people to murder.
The radio station also identified the hiding places of Tutsis where they were later killed, prosecutors said in the indictment.
More than 50 witnesses are expected to appear for the prosecution, which said they needed about 40 hours to wrap up their case.
Prosecutors said Kabuga controlled and encouraged RTLM’s content and defended the station when the minister of information criticized the broadcasts.
Kabuga is also accused of “distributing machetes” to genocidal groups, and ordering them to kill Tutsis.
Later fleeing Rwanda, Kabuga spent years on the run using a succession of false passports.
Investigators say he was helped by a network of former Rwandan allies to evade justice.
Following his arrest in a small apartment near Paris, his lawyers argued that Kabuga, whose age is now given as 87 on the indictment, should face trial in France for health reasons.
But France’s top court ruled he should be moved to UN custody, in line with an arrest warrant issued in 1997.
Kabuga is one of the last top wanted suspects for the Rwandan genocide to face justice.
Others, including the man seen as the architect of the genocide, Augustin Bizimana, and former presidential guard commander Protais Mpiranya have both died.
Victims of the genocide have called for a swift trial for Kabuga saying “if he dies before facing justice, he would have died under the presumption of innocence.”


Philippines evacuates coasts, cancels sea trips as Super Typhoon Noru nears

Philippines evacuates coasts, cancels sea trips as Super Typhoon Noru nears
Updated 25 September 2022

Philippines evacuates coasts, cancels sea trips as Super Typhoon Noru nears

Philippines evacuates coasts, cancels sea trips as Super Typhoon Noru nears
  • Packing sustained winds of 185 to 205 kph, the super typhoon is expected to hit the northern island of Luzon Sunday afternoon

MANILA: Philippine authorities started evacuating people from coastal areas on Sunday and hundreds were unable to travel by sea as the main island Luzon, including Manila, braces for a category 3 typhoon that continues to strengthen, officials said.
Typhoon Noru, locally named Karding, became a super typhoon “after a period of explosive intensification,” with sustained winds increasing to 185 km (115 miles) per hour from 120 kph on Saturday evening, the disaster agency said in an advisory.
It will continue intensifying and may make landfall on Sunday afternoon or evening with 185 to 205 kph (115 to 127 mph) of sustained winds, it said.
“I asked our mayors to comply with strict preemptive evacuations,” Helen Tan, governor of Quezon province, told DZRH radio station. Fishermen in coastal communities were barred from heading to sea, she said.
Noru, the 11th tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, will bring heavy to torrential rains over the capital region and nearby provinces on Sunday afternoon.
“Hopefully, this typhoon moves fast, although it brings strong winds,” said disaster agency spokesperson Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro. Authorities are on alert for landslides, flooding and destructive winds, he said.
The Philippine Coast Guard said more than 1,200 passengers and 28 vessels were stranded in ports south of the capital.
Noru was moving westward and likely to emerge over the South China Sea by late Sunday or early Monday.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, sees an average of 20 tropical storms a year. 

 


Far-right eyes historic victory as Italy votes

Far-right eyes historic victory as Italy votes
Updated 25 September 2022

Far-right eyes historic victory as Italy votes

Far-right eyes historic victory as Italy votes
  • The Brothers of Italy party, led by one-time Mussolini supporter Giorgia Meloni, is leading polls
  • She looks set to take office in a coalition with the far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia parties

ROME: Italians vote Sunday in an election expected to usher in the country’s first government led by the far-right since World War II, bringing euroskeptic populists to the heart of Europe.
The Brothers of Italy party, led by one-time Mussolini supporter Giorgia Meloni, is leading polls and looks set to take office in a coalition with the far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia parties.
Meloni, 45, who has campaigned on a motto of “God, country and family,” is hoping to become Italy’s first female prime minister.
Polls open at 0500 GMT and close at 2100 GMT. Many voters are expected to pick Meloni, “the novelty, the only leader the Italians have not yet tried,” Wolfango Piccoli of the Teneo consultancy told AFP.
Brussels and the markets are watching closely, amid concern that Italy — a founding member of the European Union — may be the latest member to veer hard right less than two weeks after the far-right outperformed in elections in Sweden.
If she wins, Meloni will face challenges from rampant inflation to an energy crisis as winter approaches, linked to the conflict in Ukraine.
The Italian economy, the third largest in the eurozone, rebounded after the pandemic but is saddled with a whopping debt worth 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Meloni has dedicated her campaign to trying to prove she is ready despite her party never before being in power.
Brothers of Italy, which has roots in the post-fascist movement founded by supporters of dictator Benito Mussolini, pocketed just four percent of the vote during the last elections in 2018.
Meloni has moderated her views over the years, notably abandoning her calls for Italy to leave the EU’s single currency.
However, she insists her country must stand up for its national interests, backing Hungary in its rule of law battles with Brussels.
Her coalition wants to renegotiate the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, arguing that the almost 200 billion euros Italy is set to receive should take into account the energy crisis aggravated by the Ukraine war.
But “Italy cannot afford to be deprived of these sums,” political sociologist Marc Lazar told AFP, which means Meloni actually has “very limited room for maneuver.”
The funds are tied to a series of reforms only just begun by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who called snap elections in July after his national unity coalition collapsed.
Despite her euroskepticism, Meloni strongly supports the EU’s sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, although her allies are another matter.
Berlusconi, the billionaire former premier who has long been friends with Vladimir Putin, faced an outcry this week after suggesting the Russian president was “pushed” into war by his entourage.

A straight-speaking Roman raised by a single mum in a working-class neighborhood, Meloni rails against what she calls “LGBT lobbies,” “woke ideology” and “the violence of Islam.”
She has vowed to stop the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on Italy’s shores each year, a position she shares with Salvini, who is currently on trial for blocking charity rescue ships when he was interior minister in 2019.
The center-left Democratic Party, led by former prime minister Enrico Letta, says Meloni is a danger to democracy.
It also claims her government would pose a serious risk to hard-won rights such as abortion and will ignore global warming, despite Italy being on the front line of the climate emergency.
On the economy, Meloni’s coalition pledges to cut taxes while increasing social spending, regardless of the cost. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, they want the EU’s rules on public spending amended.
The last opinion polls two weeks before election day suggested one in four voters were backing Meloni.
However, around 20 percent of voters remain undecided, and there are signs she may end up with a smaller majority in parliament than expected.
In particular, support appears to be growing for the populist Five Star Movement in the poor south.
The next government is unlikely to take office before the second half of October, and despite pledges from Meloni and Salvini to serve five years, history suggests they may struggle.
Italian politics are notoriously unstable. The country has had 67 governments since 1946.