Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Mosque opens its doors in bid to educate public on what Islamic faith is all about

By Chris McCullough

A Muslim doctor would have no problem treating a woman who said she would rather die than be helped by an Islamic medic, a religious leader in Belfast has said.

Yesterday, Muslims threw open the doors at Belfast Islamic Centre in the south of the city.

One of the hot topics of conversation at yesterday's open day, where dozens of Muslims and non-Muslims met together in a relaxed atmosphere, surrounded the controversy over a caller to the Stephen Nolan show on BBC Radio Ulster last week.

Asked if she would receive treatment from a Muslim doctor, the anonymous 'Janice from Belfast' said: "I wouldn't like to be treated... I would rather go home and die."

Despite this, many at the event felt that while Islamophobia still remains a threat to the Muslim community in Northern Ireland, it is not to the same extent it was years ago.

More:

I'd rather die than be treated by Muslim doctor: BBC's Nolan says Northern Ireland woman's 'prejudice is scary'  

We are all human beings: Somali man reacts to Nolan caller's anti-Muslim outburst 

BBC's Nolan clashes with Katie Hopkins over Muslim remarks 

Both Muslims and non-Muslims hoped the woman in question was in good health, but also invited her to visit the mosque so she could see for herself what Islam was all about.

Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, who works as a scientist in west Belfast, said the situation is improving for Muslims in Northern Ireland.

"There are still a few people who like to voice their opinion about Muslims in a derogatory way, but this is not a reflection of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

"We wanted to invite the public to our mosque so they can freely talk with us and learn more about our religion.

"Regarding the woman who spoke on the radio, I sincerely hope she does not need medical attention. But if she did, a Muslim doctor would treat her to the best of his or her ability. I was really hoping she would visit the mosque and meet some Muslims to ask questions to help address her fears," he commented.

Rashida Pierce was born in east Belfast and converted to Islam 30 years ago as "it made more sense" to her own beliefs.

"I come to the mosque three times a week," said Rashida.

"I live in south Belfast now as it's much easier to be a Muslim here, and not as intimidating. I receive a few comments from time to time about being a Muslim but it's not so often."

Carolyn Mason lives just a couple of streets away from the mosque and showed up to support her friends and neighbours. She said: "I welcome people from any country here to south Belfast as long as they are peaceful. I wanted to come to the mosque to show solidarity for the people here.

"There is no room for racism in our community."

Also present at the event was Alliance leader Naomi Long.

"The more people understand about Islam the less fear they should have. I wanted to show solidarity for the Muslim people.

"As for the lady who wouldn't see a Muslim doctor, I myself have faced serious illness and watched my mother battle cancer before she passed away.

"The last thing on my mind was where the doctor was from."

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