UK: Muslim leaders take lead on interfaith dialogue

<p>By Muhammad Mussa</p> <p>LONDON (AA) – Muslim leaders in the U.K. visited churches, synagogues, Hindu and Sikh temples in interfaith solidarity amid rising hate crime.</p> <p>Leaders from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Muslim Council of Wales, Muslim Council of Scotland and the Belfast Islamic Centre made visits Tuesday to the places of worship to demonstrate common experiences shared religious groups as minorities in the U.K.</p> <p>“At a time when the country is polarized by Brexit and hate crime is on the rise, the symbolic action aims to emphasize the importance of communities of all faiths and none in coming together and putting aside differences for the common good,” read a statement by the MCB said.</p> <p>The visits in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland came one week before the commencement of the annual Visit My Mosque Day, in which more than 250 mosques across the U.K. will open their doors to the general public.</p> <p>Secretary-General of the MCB, described his visit to the West London Synagogue as a “privilege”, saying “it was great to hear about the similarity of the Jewish religious services to my own faith as a Muslim, alongside the synagogue’s active outreach programs for refugees and the homeless.</p> <p>“I strongly encourage more of my fellow Muslims to visit other faith institutions as this will only make our bonds stronger as we have more in common than what divides us,” he added. </p> <p>Rabbi Helen Freeman of the West London Synagogue, welcomed Khan and representatives from the MCB. “We value the building of bridges of understanding with those of all faiths. So it was my particular pleasure to welcome visitors from the Muslim Council of Britain as we look forward to celebrating ‘Visit My Mosque Day’ on Sunday March 3,” he said.</p> <p>The Rev. David Compton of the Methodist Agape Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, hosted representatives of the Belfast Islamic Centre and spoke of the importance of building bridges of friendship between different communities in the U.K. to build a cohesive society and breakdown stereotypes that only rule hate crime.</p> <p>Executive Director of The Inter Faith Network for the UK, Dr. Harriet Crabtree, said this: “Mutual exchange of visits to community places of worship is an important part of building and strengthening good inter faith relations. These visits arranged in connection with Visit My Mosque are a significant demonstration of this.”</p> <p>The Muslim Council of Britain is the U.K.’s largest Muslim umbrella organization, representing more than 500 institutions and mosques and holds annual events such as Visit My Mosque Day that aim unite communities across the U.K.</p> <p>In the last three years, there has been a sharp rise in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime in the U.K. with 2017 having a record number of attacks against Muslims. In 2018 there were over 1,200 reports of Islamophobic attacks, a 26 percent surge from the previous year.</p> <p>Islamophobic incidents have risen significantly due to a number of factors such as Brexit and the proliferation of far-right groups manipulating misconceptions on immigration and faith.</p>