More than 100 people turned out to listen to a series of speakers trying to dispel myths about Islam….
The seminar was the culmination of a week-long series of events to forge greater community understanding of Islam and to drive down racism caused by misconceptions and intolerance.
During the week, mosques in Preston opened up their doors so people could visit to find out more about the Islamic religion and culture.
Visitors and participants to the seminar event were asked to observe a one minute’s silence for the victims of the September 11, Madrid and Beslan tragedies.
A number of Muslim speakers then covered topics ranging from women in Islam, Jihad – holy war – and converts to Islam.
Members of the public were encouraged to ask questions after each talk and had the chance to listen to the call to prayer as well as being invited to witness Muslims offering their prayers to Allah.
A free buffet lunch was served giving people the opportunity to try out Asian delicacies.
The event was rounded off with a question time when non Muslims could bring up any queries or issues relating to Islam which were answered by a panel.
Marilyn Casson, 50, of Fulwood, Preston, said: “I have been an atheist for more than 30 years and do not believe in God.
“I have attended this event purely to have a greater understanding of Islam.
“A few months ago, I attended an open evening at a Hindu temple and I feel it is important to learn about different cultures and communities.
“I do feel Britain is prejudiced in a many ways and racism is one of them.
“The more people can be exposed to events like these, the better for the whole community.”
Robert Parkinson, from Knott End, said: “I am here as my daughter is doing one of the talks.
“Her name is Susan – now Aysha Bana. She married a Muslim man and converted to Islam. I am very interested in it all and am here to learn more about the religion.”
John Bolton, who attended the event with wife Margaret, said: “I am a retired Methodist minister and I used to be the chaplain at the Royal Preston Hospital.
“I developed the prayer room at the hospital and took an interest in inter racial relationships.
“My wife and I decided to attend this seminar as we wish to extend our understanding of Islam.
“Unless we can find ways of integrating and mixing and working much closer together to understand and respect each other’s faiths, there are difficult times ahead.
“It is important that events like this are supported, particularly by non-Muslims.”
The organisers said that the week-long event had gone well.
Linda Guise from the Racial Equality Council, one of the event’s partner organisations, said: “We feel that there is a lot of misconception out there about Islam and this event aims to dispel the myths.
“There are no questions that will not be answered and the organisers are as honest and informative as they can.
“The idea is that if people become more understanding of different religions and cultures, they will become more tolerant and this will lead to a better society.”
The article doesn’t detail what the seminar speakers said about Islam and violence, but I can imagine that they didn’t quote Sura 9:29, Sayyid Qutb, or even Britain’s own Omar Bakri. I would lay odds that the words “Sharia” and “caliphate” went unspoken the whole week. What I would like to see would be this Muslim group holding a seminar for Al-Muhajiroun, seeking to dispel that radical Muslim group’s “misconceptions” of Islam. Then we might be getting somewhere.