Dan Watkins, recently Conservative candidate for Tooting in the 2015 general election and in the by-election which followed Sadiq Khan's election as Mayor of London is a good friend of the Conservative Muslim Forum and someone who works tirelessly for better community cohesion.
Accordingly we are very pleased to publish the story below of his recent visit to the Tooting Islamic Centre.
FROM DAN WATKINS
‘Visit My Mosque’ Events Help Build a more Inclusive Britain
Last Sunday, [5 February] saw 150 mosques across Britain open their doors and invite all members of their local communities to come inside and learn more about Islam and its beliefs. As part of this, I was delighted to speak at our largest local mosque, the Tooting Islamic Centre, which ran a ‘Visit My Mosque’ event (www.visitmymosque.org).
In the weeks before, the congregations of participating mosques distributed invites to local residents via posters and social media, aimed at attracting as many local people to visit the mosque as possible. First-timers were very much welcome, since the aim of the day was to educate those who know little or nothing about Islam about the religion and its practises.
At the Tooting event, after our local Imam did a hugely informative ‘Introduction to Islam’, I had a chance to say a few words about the day and why I felt it was so important that we support Visit My Mosque and other cross-community initiatives.
We live in turbulent times across the world, but if we are to build a society which is tolerant and inclusive, we need to break down barriers between different communities. As a long-term resident of Tooting, I have always been impressed at how few divisive incidents we have had. Yet beneath the surface, it is clear from the thousands of conversations I’ve had with residents on the doorstep that some still have concern over Muslim teachings and practises, and what they might mean for our area and Britain as a whole.
Through grassroots projects like VisitMyMosque we can start to inform and educate all elements of our community about Islam, about what happens in Mosques, and about the broader contribution that Muslims make not just to their community, but to people of other faiths and none.
Not only do attendees of VisitMyMosque get to see that many of the values of Mulsims are shared with people of other faith or no faith – that there is so much more than unites us than divides us – but they also hear of projects that their mosque does to benefit all of the community.
For instance, I was invited to help at the Muslim Aid event at the Tooting and Balham Mosques last month, in which the congregation donated four tons of food to the needy, which was distributed to Wandsworth churches where foodbanks are run.
I truly believe that we are ‘one humanity’ and that by holding positive, informative events in our community such as VisitMyMosque, we can help build a better, more inclusive Britain. As such, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the trustees and congregation of all mosques across the country for welcoming in their neighbours to VisitMyMosque.
Below is a picture of Dan with the Imam of the Tooting Islamic Centre, Imam Khubaeb Raja.
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