This weekend trending on twitter is the hashtag #YouAintNoMuslimBruv. As the world reels in horror in the wake of the Paris bombings and British Muslims make their position clear after the Leytonstone incident, that the people doing these things for the past 10 years are not doing it in the name of true Islam, now seemed to be the right time for us to revisit Bridgwater’s own Mosque – the Bridgwater Jamme Masjid in Westover, and see how they were getting on.
In October 2014 the local Islamic Community opened the towns first Mosque – the Islamic Cultural Centre. Sedgemoor District and Bridgwater Town Councils gave them a grant (available to any church group) and suddenly social media was awash with unreasonable people screaming unreasonable abuse. It was a great moment when local voices silenced their bigoted compatriots on facebook after a battle in cyberspace that lasted several hours. In the meantime some idiots had stuck anti islamic stickers on the door of the mosque and were threatening to firebomb the place. After swift action by the Police who took the hate crime as seriously as it deserved and paid prompt visits to the perpetrators the Town Council immediately visited the centre to offer our support.
A year on and the time was right to pay another visit.
Several councillors were joined by a group of visiting Czech Family Centre workers and organisers of the recent Community cohesion initiative ‘Bridgwater Together’ and were shown around the centre by Mosque Secretary Karim Miah.
The Masjid is a very modest in design and content. The larger room is adorned only with a series of fitted prayer mats pointing towards Mecca and a series of clocks on one wall telling the time at various places around the globe. There is a second smaller room for use by the much smaller group of Muslim women.
“Getting on with People”
Karim, who is of Bengali origin and moved to Bridgwater from London to work in a popular local Indian restaurant,straight away addressed the question of ISIS and Islamic fundamentalism saying “These people are not proper Islam, they’re giving us a bad name. Islam should be about a peaceful life and getting on with people.”
The Muslim congregation is around 50-60 people and they are keen to get this message out. That Bridgwater people will accept them and demonstrate tolerance as they would any religious group in their town is the question. The strategy would have to be getting themselves involved in the wider community.