Visit My Mosque day had already been scheduled for 150 mosques in the UK when Donald Trump announced the immigration ban on seven majority Muslim countries. If what we heard on Sunday while visiting the Belfast mosque held true in the other 149 locations, local residents and visitors like us turned out in record numbers.
We went to support the local mosque and Muslims in general, showing them that not all Americans hate them and their religion. Sure, certain Muslims want to do us harm. But so do people from all walks of life and religions, including people born and bred in the US. As a Christian, I feel it’s important to acknowledge and respect other religions—especially those unfairly under persecution.
Taking such broad strokes in the name of preventing terrorism only makes the world mad at us—it does nothing to make us safer. Do you really feel safe after you pass through airport security, or just dirty and degraded?
Leave your shoes at the door
The Belfast mosque is located along a residential street a few blocks from our flat. Upon entering, we removed our shoes just inside the front door (photo). Women on hand in the first room to our right plied us with tea, coffee and biscuits (it is the UK, after all). Then we went upstairs to the prayer room, where a mosque leader gave a 10-minute presentation about Islam, the Prophet Mohammed and the Quran, then took audience questions. A local man asked about how his son, who is dating a Muslim woman, could marry her. The response was that the man would have to convert.
I’m glad we visited, but I won’t be converting to Islam—ever. God issues aside, I could never practice a religion that subjugates women. My deceased mother, grandmothers and aunts would claw their way out of their graves and smack me upside my head—not to mention what Marilynn would do to me if I ever told her to shut the hell up and make me dinner.
As we were leaving, a nice Muslim man with a distinctive Belfast accent was coming toward the mosque and engaged us in conversation. We explained why we were there and talked a bit about the US political situation/attitude toward Muslims.
He said Trump’s executive order could be a blessing in disguise, because apparently the attendance at this event was up considerably over past years. At one point, he also said, “We are extremists. Extremely nice, extremely caring and extremely compassionate.”
And after talking with him and visiting the center, I couldn’t agree more.