JEDDAH, 12 June 2004 — One of the imams of the Grand Mosque in Makkah led prayers for inter-faith peace and harmony in London yesterday, while another in the holy city called on Muslims to resist outside interference.
Around 10,000 worshippers gathered at the East London Mosque, and surrounding streets in the city’s Whitechapel district to hear Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, organizers said.
Also on hand for the launch of the 10-million-pound ($18 million) London Muslim Center were guests including Britain’s grand rabbi Jonathan Sachs and Racial Equality Minister Fiona Mactaggart.
Prince Charles, in Washington for the funeral of former US President Ronald Reagan, also took part by way of a pre-recorded message.
“Islam emphasizes to Muslims how to organize their relationship and responsibility toward society so that they may live under the blessing of Allah and a peace that extends to all,” said Sudais in his sermon.
“I want to urge Muslims to be united in adhering to this message and follow the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah upon him),” he said.
He also said that Muslims should set an example of “the true image of Islam” in their interactions with other communities, “and dispel any misconceptions portrayed in some parts of the media”.
“The history of Islam is the best testament to how different communities can live together in peace and harmony,” he said.
In his sermons at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Sudais has condemned deadly terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, calling them cowardly and vile.
He has also criticized the US-led occupation of Iraq and bloodshed in the Palestinian territories. Britain is home to an estimated two million Muslims, most of them of South Asian origin.
The London Muslim Center is described by the East London Mosque, one of the busiest in Britain with 5,000 worshippers a week, as “Western Europe’s largest multi-purpose Muslim complex, with something for everyone”.
Its inauguration continues over the weekend with a community conference, children’s fair, stalls, a women’s-only event and, on Sunday, an open day for non-Muslims.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Saud Al-Sheraim, delivering the weekly sermon at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, called on Muslims to resist attempts to make the nation imitate the West, especially in regard to the treatment of women.
He said despite the “propaganda” Western countries were using to advocate liberation for women, all they had achieved was to turn women into “a cheap commodity,” and that the rules that must be applied in determining the role of both men and women are those defined by the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the Prophet’s teachings).
Even some countries that were advocating freedom of women, he said, had clauses in their constitutions barring women from assuming the position of head of state.
“Maybe those countries understood the real meaning of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) teachings better than the advocates of freedom for women, knowing that no people would ever succeed who chose a woman as their leader,” he said.
He said words like “freedom” and “liberalism” were tools used by the ignorant and biased who sought to penetrate and destroy the social harmony of the Muslim nation. In this way, Satan would find his way to people’s hearts because the word “freedom” had a magical effect on the public, and was especially appealing to teenagers.