Friday, 5 April 2013

The Daily Mail's Islamophobia is based on lies

Apart from defaming Muslims and stirring racial tensions, does the Daily Mail have nothing better to do?

Baitul Fatuh Mosque, Morden, UK

Nothing is more certain in life than death. That is until you read an article in the Daily Mail along with pictures of a mosque, which will certainly include a negative portrayal of Islam or immigration. 

However, when I first saw a picture of the mosque I attend on the Daily Mail website, I hoped the article would be a rare exception. After all, it was hardly 36 hours since more than 1,000 people from all walks of life, including national and international journalists, attended a peace symposium at the mosque. Attendees (80% of whom were non-Muslim guests) were welcomed with hospitality and warmth.

It was at this symposium that the worldwide head of the 'Ahmadiyans' - as the author of the article, David Goodhart, incorrectly called the Ahmadi Muslim congregation at the mosque – told the world that all people should unite in promoting the principles of 'equity, justice, peace and integrity'. He asked all nations to put aside enmities for the sake of our future generations. Surely, no one could find anything sinister in this?

Yet, the fact that David incorrectly used the term 'Ahmadiyans' shows he didn't bother to learn even the basics about the community, nor did he do any research on the mosque. In fact, the mistake with the name was just the tip of an iceberg in this omnishambles of an article. But then, Mr Goodhart was writing to promote his own book, which was released on April Fools Day.

The article did receive many responses in the comments section, with a great deal of hatred and mistrust of Muslims being expressed. The article also received a lot of interest elsewhere, especially among some fine citizens who live around the mosque in Merton. Twitter users including Omar Oakes, (@omaroakes ), Georgia Lewis (@georgialewis76) and Myles Munro (@mmunro91) - all local residents - exposed the article's fallacies.

Perhaps there is a real debate to be had about whether Merton was better off - as Goodhart claims - with a homogenised milk bottling plant producing 'white milk' for white 'homogenised' community (Goodhart's words, not mine). However, to hold such a debate we need a more honest appraisal of the facts. It is a shame that Goodhart did not bother to learn - or deliberately chose to ignore - the fact the plant was closed for 7 years and was being used as crack den prior to being bought, refurbished and reopened as a mosque by the Ahmadis using only donations from their own community, with no grants or funding of any sort. Perhaps this is what Goodhart meant when he bemoaned the creeping unemployment in the area, that a few drug dealers lost their jobs?

And the mosque has also been contributing to the wider non-Muslim community. The Ahmadiyya Youth Association, whose administrative centre is in the mosque, is holding its 27th annual charity challenge in Milton Keynes on April 28. Last year the same event raised £250,000 for a number of different charities. An additional £120,000 pounds were donated to Queen’s charity to mark the diamond jubilee. Perhaps David can join the charity event and nominate a non-partisan charity who can benefit from the event.

That’s not all. Every year the Ahmadiyya Youth Association send hundreds of volunteers to marshal Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research’s annual bikeathon, helping to raise millions of pounds. Members of the association also help in raising money for British veterans with an annual poppy appeal. While Merton's Ahmadiyya Muslim Community works unassumingly to support those who defend this country, the Daily Mail is busy finding ways to defame Ahmadis to support its own political agenda.

Then, almost every Friday evening, the mosque kitchen is used for cooking and packing food for London’s homeless. Last year 7,000 food packets were distributed to the homeless. Sometimes they also distribute blankets, clothes and toiletries along with food. The mosque is also used for packing relief material when natural disasters strike around the world. There were three blood donation sessions hosted at the mosque last year resulting in more than 300 units of blood collected. 

As for environmental commitments, the attendees of the mosque have planted 8,000 trees during 2012. They also worked with other local faith groups to preserve the local park and save it from being sold on for commercial use. This was a fine example of multi-faith cooperation. In addition, the mosque arranged for at least 10 litter picking sessions in the Merton area. They also help to clear the snow off the pavements during the winter.

The mosque itself is open for public use. The local university uses the premises to hold exams. The mosque has hosted three external conferences, four borough council meetings and two council surgeries. An Armed Forces function was also hosted at the mosque. The mosque holds monthly liaison meetings with neighbours, churches, councillors, schools and police to discuss local issues. There were two well attended public job fairs in the mosque, organised by  the mosque's administration and visited by many private and public employers. Perhaps some would consider this a more effective way of tackling unemployment, rather than Goodhart's preferred method of trying to create racial tensions. 

Then when the local scouts in Merton recently found their hut roof badly damaged and decaying, Ahmadis took on the responsibility of repairing the roof as the scouts didn’t have the budget to do it. This news was not covered anywhere (until now) as it was not done to gain acclaim, but to contribute to the local community.

There is a huge car park in the mosque compound, behind the main building and adjacent to the London tube station. The 'enclave’s' car park (as Goodhart calls it) is open to the public. Those who go to the nearby college or use public transport into central London, can park their cars on most days, regardless of the colour of their skin or their choice of faith. The service is absolutely free and available to all. If this is 'polite apartheid' as Goodhart alleges, long live polite apartheid. 

Around 33,000 guests visited the mosque last year. This includes student groups, teachers, representatives from different churches etc. Most of these are provided refreshments and many served with a meal. Not a place where 'small elite' gather by any means, as claimed by Goodhart. 

The most striking impact the mosque, for me, came last week, after a dinner with a group of friends, some of them 'Ahmadiyans', others not. We were walking to the nearest tube station after a delicious meal made up of Middle Eastern delicacies. "You know," said my friend who comes from an indigenous British family and has converted to Islam, "I only became patriotic after I accepted Islam". This came from a man whose attitude to the country, in which he and his ancestors were born and raised, was completely changed by the instructions of Islam's prophet, Muhammad who lived in Arabia almost 1,400 years ago: "Love for one’s country is part of one’s faith". @newreligionEU

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