Edinburgh mosque defends school trips practice

Muslim women who conduct tours at the Central Mosque have defended the practice of inviting school trips to gain an understanding of their faith.

School groups from as far away as Newcastle and Inverness regularly travel to take part in weekly tours around the King Fahd Mosque in Potterrow.

Each group is met by a member of the Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh (MWAE) who shows them the building’s main rooms – the main prayer hall, the multi-purpose room and the library.

The only stipulation made is that no shoes are worn in the main prayer hall. No demands are made for 
females to cover up and children are not asked to take part in any religious service.

MWAE treasurer Tasmeen Ali welcomes up to four tour groups a week from a host of bodies such as schools, Scout troops, youth groups, 
churches and universities.

She said: “We make no demands at all, all we ask is that people are respectful as this is a place of worship. The trip is informal and relaxed, there is no indoctrination or lectures at all.

“There is no hatred preached here. The children can look around and see our own children’s projects, we had a school group the other day who admired a presentation on Vikings.

“When we conduct the tours we mainly answer questions from the children, we do not force anything upon them.”

The Central Mosque has found itself at the centre of a row this week after 28 Newtongrange Primary children from a group of 90 were withdrawn from a visit due to some parents’ fears over safety following the terrorist murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Others have meanwhile told how they felt it was not a fun thing for children as young as five years old to take part in while others stated concerns following the Willowbrae shooting of Mohammed Omar Abdi and his links to the mosque.

MWAE chair Zareen Taj said: “It is sad for us to hear these things. A criminal should be recognised as a criminal but instead many choose to demonise Islam. Nobody believes that Norwegians are terrorists because of the actions of Anders Breivik, do they?

“We do not approach the school groups to come and visit us, they do so themselves and they keep coming back. They wouldn’t do so if we were preaching hate or pushing an agenda.”

The Scotsman, 7 June 2013