Open your mind

THE public is invited inside the Perth Mosque for an open day this Saturday (October 28), as part of a national day to break down common misconceptions about Islam.

Organiser Ali Chaudhry, from Muslim Youth WA, says it’s a chance for non-Muslims to ask any questions they might have about Islam, and is hopeful the open day will counteract Islamophobia and mutual misconceptions between Muslims and non-Muslims.

They’ll have an open Q&A session, teach people about ritual ablution, how Muslim services work, and a bit about the history of the William Street mosque: it’s the second oldest mosque in Australia, built around 1905 on a site that had been used for decades by Afghan cameliers, who’d pray west towards Mecca.

• Ali Chaudhry and Imam Mohammed Shakeeb relax with Voice journo David Bell at the Perth Mosque. Photos by Steve Grant

Mohammed Shakeeb, Perth mosque’s friendly and good-humoured imam, says there’s a few questions that typically get asked by non-Muslims.

He says a lot of them stem from people wrongly attributing cultural practices to Islam: “They might be genuinely curious about why women dress in in that manner”.

He says the Quran only requires that both men and women dress modestly, but it’s interpreted differently around the world, from Saudi Arabian culture that requires only the eyes be left uncovered, to the hair-covering jilbab of Indonesia, or some women who wear no special covering.

He says people also ask about child brides, which is not a rule of Islam but was a practice in many parts of the world throughout history (including in the western world where royal marriages would involve very young girls).

Another topic is female genital mutilation: it too is a cultural practice, being most common in parts of Africa (and practiced by a number of religions including Christianity and Islam, and was even done in a few rare cases in Europe and the United States through the 1800s to combat “female hysteria”).

“The majority of Australian society doesn’t really interact with Muslims,” Mr Chaudhry says, and it’s a chance to come along and see how normal they are.  Muslims make up about 2.6 per cent of Australia’s population and he says for some people attending “it’ll be their first time interacting with Muslims”.

They also aim to make it a fun, kid-friendly event, with face-painting, henna tattoos, and a sausage sizzle.

The imam says you don’t need to wear a special outfit, just dress as if you were going to a traditional church.

The mosque is at 427 William Street and the open day runs 10am to 4pm, with tours starting every hour, and there’s a prayer demonstration at 1pm.

by DAVID BELL

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