Some months ago I went to the Mosque in Birmingham. The trip was organised by DSU and is part of the interfaith project. The mosque is one of the biggest in Europe. As a main place of worship I therefore expected it to be a wealthy place, however it turned out te be quite basic and different to the idea I had of mosque buildings, like the bowl formed ones. The mosque contains a large hall for prayer for the man and a smaller hall one floor above for woman. The hall is more or less empty except for the carpet and the large lamp, because they don't want to be distracted by anything during the prayers. All religious books are written in arabic and are not to be translated because the word was transmitted in arabic and has to be pure. Therefore everyone needs to have some understanding or arabic. However in my opinion this makes the religion less approachable in Europe because arabic is not so common here. Muslim pray 5 times a day at specific times, for today the first prayer was at 5:30 (yes AM). At least that would be one reason to me not to become a muslim. After someone showed us around we got a presentation about the faith and they were open for questions. In the presentation they said that Islam means "peace" and overall the religion was presented as a very peaceful one. Since public opinion, at least in Holland, seems to think differently about this I confronted them with this. However they did not agree on this. When I came to their views towards homosexual people they said that they needed to be dealt with respectfully. Although that was their view I think that the religion gives bases for multiple views on this and other issues. After looking up the meaning of Islam I found the translation of "submission" more often than "peace". Also I think there is a danger in characterising things as good or bad. In "Pauw & Witteman" there was a journalist in discussion with an islamic teacher. The teacher teaches that you need to hate bad things and therefore you need to hate people that don't follow Islam. Although the religious leaders usually say that hating and harming people are two totally different things there might be a danger in this religious justice. I don't think that muslims are more violent than non-muslims however, they seem to be considering their actions much more carefully than many other people. However religions have great authority and judging about other in terms of good and bad is dangerous in my opinion, I think this might lead to disrespect towards people that are considered to be bad according to religious views. Anyhow, everyone should be free to follow their own ideas as long as they do not limit others in doing the same.
And as a present we all got a calendar, so the ISKCON calendar in my room for last year has been replaced for a mosque of the month calendar this year. With this month the mosque from Casablanca.
The photos of the visit to the mosque are publicly available and can be found on facebook.