In the old days when you were under attack, you’d pull up the drawbridge and lock the gates. In today’s time, it’s the exact opposite move that helps you win battles.
In the battle of perceptions and the rising animosity against Islam on many fronts, many Muslims are realizing the value of reaching out to their community. And across Germany, mosques have agreed to hold a ‘Day of Open Mosques’ on October 3, 2010. The day includes exhibitions, Q & A sessions, round table discussions, and more.
This all in light of a new book that points to Muslims as a threat to German society, leads German Muslims to utilize Germany’s national day as an opportunity to reach out to the German community. Most Germans aren’t against mosque building, but there is a strong minority that sees it as a ‘display of Muslim power’. The fact that there’s growing resentment against Islam in Europe adds to how imperative Germany’s 4.3 million strong Muslim community feels reaching out has become for their survival.
My own experience in Germany back in 1985-1987, relates to the frustration German Muslims feel. There was a noticeable level of xenophobia, particularly against Turks of which there are presently 2.5 million in the country. However, once the initial misperceptions were broken down, the German people were extremely hospitable and willing to engage in a cultural exchange with their foreign neighbors – leading to some of my fondest memories while living abroad. Of course, Germany today isn’t the Germany of over two decades ago – but if history is anything to go by, a ‘Day of Open Mosques’ is a smart move.
But what isn’t a smart move is failing to understand the outside perceptions and appreciating the sensitive nature of the issue. There is hesitation and concerns about Islam and it’s followers, and rather than expanding isolationist mosques, our community needs to rethink it’s structure. We need to work on building Muslim interfaith centers that allow Muslims to gather, but that also place a heavy emphasis on engaging with non-Muslims.
Mosques in America can certainly learn from this Germany’s “Day of Open Mosques”. However, the goal isn’t just to have an open mosque day. The key is to have a policy of open doors that goes beyond getting people to the mosque, but to get mosque-goers to step outside the mosque and into the community.
But why stop there? Why not ‘open the doors’ globally? Why not allow accessibility to non-Muslims to otherwise prohibited places, such as the Dome of the Rock? In the name of tolerance and plurality, extend the hand of peace and patience by welcoming the sacred books of other faiths into our mosques, which are otherwise frowned upon or expressively prohibited.
What does it say about Islam and about us as a collective if one of our most sacred sites, such as the Dome of the Rock presently bans non-Muslims and prohibits the Jewish prayer books of their neighbors. What are we then other than little people shelled up in our own little bubbles, rather than a true people of faith – a people so strong in their faith that they’re not affected or threatened by the beliefs of their neighbors.
Image: Copyright dpa – International