‘We’re always happy to entertain anyone’: Imam denies presenter ‘ushered out’ of Streatham mosque

A Streatham imam at the centre of the mosque open day furore has refuted claims that a Channel 4 journalist was ‘ushered out’ of a mosque yesterday.

Cathy Newman tweeted yesterday that she’d been denied access to the South London Muslim Centre mosque on Mitcham Road during ‘Visit My Mosque day’ despite being appropriately dressed.

Imam Haffiz Mumtaz told SW Londoner that this was due to scheduling problems, caused by weekly GCSE classes and children’s lessons, and not because of the way she was dressed.

Imam Mumtaz confirmed that Ms Newman was informed there was no one present in an official capacity to meet her upon arrival.

He said: “We were disturbed and upset when we heard this news – no decent Muslim would treat anyone like that.

“We were insulted when we heard about it. Muslims happily entertain visitors if at all possible.”

Iman Mumtaz said that the mosque had held several official open days in the past five years and that they dedicated a whole weekend in 2013 to providing the public with information.

He confirmed that Ms Newman was originally supposed to meet colleagues at the Hyderi Islamic Centre on Estreham Road and that she’d gone to their mosque by mistake.

He said: “We are always happy to entertain anyone. If we had known that she was coming we would have ensured that there was someone there to cater for her.

“We hold days for the public regularly and we always welcome people with open arms – it’s a really enjoyable experience for all concerned.”

The Muslim Council of Britain planned the event to offer people an insight into how they run the mosques and many mosques across the UK opened their doors in an effort to quell tensions around terrorism.

Miss Newman’s tweet has subsequently been taken down but not before causing a national furore with #VisitMyMosque trending online.

Farooq Aftab, general secretary of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, has described ‘Newman-gate’ as a distinctly isolated incident.

Mr Aftab, who is associated with the Fazl Mosque in Southfields said that mosques regularly hold meet and greets with the general public.

“It helps to play a massive role in the current climate,” Mr Aftab said.

“It allows people to engage with us, ask questions and listen to their opinions and develop positive interaction,” Mr Aftab said.

“It helps to show people the day-to-day goings on of a busy Muslim centre of worship and there are people on hand to answer questions about Muslims and Islam.”

There are 100 centres in the UK and Mr Aftab said they are open to visitors and would not turn anyone away as long as they comply with their rules.

Last week they had two classes of children from a nearby school visit the mosque and those showing them around were humbled by the feedback they received from their teachers about their experiences.

Mr Aftab said: “We were overwhelmed with the feedback. They were fascinated, asked some really interesting questions and learned so much from their day out.

“We’re trying to break down barriers and teach respect and tolerance.

“In order to live with each other we need to understand each other.

“Islam is a religion of peace and our motto is love for all and hatred for none.”

Picture courtesy of sarflondondunc, with thanks

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