HUNTER residents with queries about Islam and Muslims have been urged to bypass Google and go straight to the source at National Mosque Open Day.
Secretary of the The Islamic Centre of Newcastle, Forugh Dorani, said the centre would open its Sultan Fatih Mosque at Mayfield on Saturday for the fifth year in a row and welcomed all questions.
“The best place to ask questions about Muslims is in a mosque, not Google,” Mr Dorani said.
“We’re not here to convert people.
“But we want to build a bridge of understanding, to remove those misconceptions and barriers so we can talk.
“We want to give a different perspective.
“As Dalia Mogahed and John Esposito wrote, the religion of Islam and the mainstream Muslim majority have been conflated with the beliefs and actions of an extremist minority.”
Mr Dorani said the mosque wanted to further strengthen its relationship with the wider community, which he said had “improved dramatically” since 2014.
“People have been coming to us with an open mind, they’re finding we’re not what Fox News says,” he said.
“People don’t fear us anymore.
“We’re managing to remove some misconceptions about what happens in the mosque and we’re countering hate and fear with love and understanding, although it is a work in progress.
“We’ve received overwhelming community support and that is the driving force for us.
“It gives us energy and helps us know we are doing the right thing.”
Mr Dorani said while questions were now more likely to be polite inquiries, they were once tinged with aggression and centred on ISIS.
“One woman said the Quran had called her an infidel, but it is written in Arabic and that was not referring to all Christians – we call them people of the book and have lived in harmony with them for centuries.”
He said there were still several misunderstandings.
“Suicide bombers, for example, have nothing to do with the religion, they’re acting for political or ideological reasons.
“Jesus was one of the top five highly rated prophets and Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran.
“It never mentions Jesus without saying he is the son of Mary.
“People ask us if women come to the mosque and do they have to cover their face?
“Yes they do come and no, the burqa is only worn by a small minority and is a matter of personal choice.
“We have dress codes for prayer for men and women.”
Mr Dorani said the open day, from 10am to 4pm, would include tours, children’s entertainment, a sausage sizzle, biryani and sweets.
“We’re more than people who go to the mosque, we have art, music, culture and delicious food.
“We live in conformity with the Australian way of life. We too have a goal of justice, mercy and a fair go.”
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