Bath Imam: “Let us fight hate with love. Let us challenge fear with hope”

See below for exclusive new radio station preview.

Bath Quakers and other visitors heard how Bath’s Muslims plan to combat Islamophobia and extremism with a greater openness, when we attended an open day and vigil at the Bath Mosque Sat 25 March. The event was held in the wake of the horrific Christchurch Mosque mass shooting in New Zealand.

Imam Mohammed welcomes guests to the vigil in Bath Mosque.

The Imam and the Muslim faithful welcomed guests to 8 Pierrepont St with speeches, silent reflection, refreshments and a tour of the Mosque, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Imam Mohammed teaches and is completing his PhD at SOAS in London. A distinguished academic from Cairo, he gave a very erudite talk at the Friends’ Meeting House last year. What Friends did not experience at that time was his highly accomplished sung recitation of the Holy Qu-ran. You can hear an example of his recitation below (chapter 42, verses 47-50) and there are several more examples here.

You can also hear below an exclusive preview of a 15-minute interview with Imam Mohammed conducted for Imperial Voice Radio, the new Bath radio station to be launched in Fairfield House on 4 May 2019.

The full text of Imam Mohammed’s talk at the vigil is below.

My name is Mohammed Gamal, the Imam of Bath Islamic Society.

I greet you all, originally motivated by the respect and love I keep within myself to each and every one of you. Your presence with us today is an embodiment of hope, human unity and solidarity irrespective of our different backgrounds, religions and ethnicities. I would like to  quote here the words of the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who says commenting on the attack of the Christchurch mosque, while the attacker thought that he is waging a war against Islam, instead he has generated human unity. Given this, the support of the local Bathonian community sends a message of love, solidarity and compassion that are badly needed today.

My dear brothers and sisters, our gathering today functions at multiple dimensions:

  1. It is primarily a vigil to remember the victims of the Christchurch Mosque, which rendered us speechless and notionless; seeing death in the form of a human harvesting some beautiful souls of other fellow humans. One thing that struck me here is how we name the mosque now; I mean we name it: Christchurch mosque; a name that, in and of itself, reflects unity in diversity.
  2. Second, which emerges from the first point, we are gathering here to start the Bath Visit My Mosque day initiative. This initiative is largely triggered by the above attack, but we wanted to respond more positively to it. In this context, and let me put it more clearly and frankly, from my personal perspective of course, part, and I accentuate the word part, part of the problem of Islamophobia today lies in the some Muslims’ avoidance and disengagement in the outside community. This disengagement, in and of itself, feeds the narrative of Islamophobia. Therefore, having such initiatives is a way of stopping the feeding of that narrative. In this context too, it is also significant to clarify what it really means to be a Muslim. Prophet Mohammad has defined, fourteen centuries ago, what a Muslim means when he said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.” He defined what a Muslim means when he chose the Assalamu aleikum —a wish for the other to be blessed with peace, to be the hi and hello of Muslims. He defined what a Muslim means when he taught, fourteen centuries ago, that Muslim soldiers were ordered not to destroy a tree, nor to harm a priest, or destroy a church, etc. Yet, we also recognize that Islam today is largely being hijacked by certain types of Muslims that either take it to the far right or to the far left. Given this situation, it becomes a duty upon the mainstream moderate Muslims to speak up through such initiatives and open-days.
  3. Thirdly, we are here today to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Bath Islamic centre as this year marks its fortieth birthday. In the 1970s Muslims from all corners of the world were arriving in Bath to study at the prestigious university and others for work. With no place for Muslims to perform their congregational prayers in Bath, a Palestinian businessman by the name of Mr. Diya Eddin Muhiyeddin Al-Muzaffar, allowed people to pray in the basement of his Georgian terraced house on Pierrepont Street. By the 1980s the growing congregation had decided to try and buy the property in order to establish the first Mosque in the area. Mr. Al Muzaffar generously agreed to sell the house at half the market value at £19,000, if the congregation could raise the funds to buy it. Within a few years, the building was bought and the Al Muzaffar Mosque was born and named in honor of our most generous benefactor. In the mid-1990’s the community became one whole Muslim community as the residents and visitors from all nationalities became united under one roof in the Al Muzaffar Mosque, and it has remained the one and only mosque for all Muslims in Bath till now.

To summarize and conclude, let these incidents be a force to unite the sons of Adam again after Satan has caused them to deviate and separate. Let us fight hate with love. Let us challenge fear with hope.

And on behalf of the Bath Muslim Community, I would like to invite Mr. Mayor to say a couple of words, followed by Reverent Philip, from St. Stephen’s church who will recite the beatitude to us, which will be followed by my recitation of some Qur’anic verses, at the end I would kindly ask you to join me in a five-minute silence and contemplation.

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