Australia to have national mosque open day to fight prejudice

Nine mosques in Australia will open their doors to the public later this month in an effort to help overcome prejudices and misunderstandings.

The first national mosque open day, to be held on October 25, will see non-Muslims invited to take tours of mosques and to ask questions of Islamic leaders.

It will be followed by a “Walk Together” march in 20 cities organised by an interfaith group, Welcome to Australia.

The National Unity Day events were announced by Muslim, Christian and Jewish community leaders at Sydney’s Pitt Street Uniting Church on October 8, the Guardian Australia reported.

The president of the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) in Australia, Samier Dandan, said the day was about “demonstrating to the wider community that our mosques are open”, an openness he hoped would be taken up by in the general public.

“If you have a question, go straight to the source, do your own research, find out what a Muslim stands for, what a Christian stands for, what a Jew stands for.

“I guarantee that you that what you’ll find is that 99 per cent between the different faiths is common,” he said.

Mr Dandan said the LMA was implementing other interfaith projects, including organising visits between private Islamic and Jewish schools “to cross-pollinate their mindsets”.

These moves come at a time when Muslims are feeling increasingly marginalised in Australia and there is disturbing evidence of hate crimes across the country.

Maha Abdo, the chief executive the Muslim Women’s Association in Australia, said the debate around Islam in the past weeks, including last week’s ban on people with facial coverings sitting in federal Parliament’s open public gallery, had made Muslims “fearful and anxious”.

But she was heartened by the backlash to the burqa decision, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s request to Parliament’s presiding officers to reconsider the ruling.

Uniting Church Australia president Reverend Andrew Dutney said it was important that Christians loved their neighbours as themselves.

Rabbi Adam Stein, from the conservative Kehilat Nitzan Synagogue in Melbourne, also leant his support to the initiative.

“A National Day of Unity helps us remember that there are more ­issues that unite us than divide us,” Rabbi Stein said.


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