Sunday, 5 February 2017

Visit my Mosque...

I’m sitting in a snug of the Bay Horse pub, on one side of the Market Place in Otley, enjoying a quiet pint, listening to Kate Rusby songs and mulling over the events of the day. In the morning I went to Quaker meeting in Roundhay for an hour of shared silence. I chatted with a lady who used to go to a Methodist chapel in Darlington. She was so old that I even wondered if she’d heard my grandfather, the Rev John Morrison, preach at the Greenbank Chapel (she hadn’t). Other people mentioned the ‘Visit my Mosque’ events around Leeds, which is where I was headed later in the day.

I wound up at the Leeds Grand Mosque, an unremarkable building off Burley Road, where I listened to a presentation by Fadel Soliman, who specialises in explaining Islam to non-Muslims. Though his talk was really quite persuasive, I’ve read so much about Islam lately that there was little or nothing that I didn’t know already. What I did notice were the omissions: nothing about hell (just a vague mention of “punishments"), and nothing about apostasy. Muslim women, according to Mr Soliman, are equal to men in every way, which is nonsense, and the idea that “there is no compulsion in religion” is privileging one (early, Meccan) verse in the Koran and ignoring the 100+ verses which require apostates, infidels and unbelievers to be put to death.

The atmosphere was friendly, and I chatted with a few people. The Q & A session, after the presentation, was restrained. No one asked the difficult questions (and nor did I). I have nothing against individual Muslims; it’s faith without evidence that troubles me. Mr Soliman was a plausible propagandist for a religion that, for all his presentation skills, is irredeemably stuck in the dark ages… 

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