HAMILTON - Facing growing anti-Muslim attacks, Hamilton Muslims did not shut themselves up in their mosque, choosing to open doors and hearts to welcome the community and introduce a true image of Islam.
Oh, they would walk past on a Friday night and throw bottles of alcohol, tip it out everywhere, it was terrible, Ismail Gamadid, President of the Waikato Muslim Association, told Stuff news website on Friday, August 31.
So we decided to open the mosque to the public, to let them meet us and see our mosque, and the broken bottles, they stopped.
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The decision to open doors at Hamilton Mosque and Islamic Centre has changed these false interpretations of Islam.
This Saturday the mosque will hold its open day for 2012, giving the public the chance to learn more about the plans to extend the mosque.
A property next door has been purchased and will be knocked down to extend the current mosque in a bid to ease parking pressures on Friday, when the mosque is busiest, Gamadid said.
Work is expected to start in October.
'We see ourselves as very much part of the community and we want people to know we are here, we want to be part of the community and contribute to it, Rahman said.
The Islamic Women's Council's Anjum Rahman said woman were absolutely welcome at the mosque at all times.
This day is about including everyone, Rahman said.
We will have some scarves here, in case women choose to cover their hair, but honestly it is no bother what they are wearing.
People can come any time of the year, but often they will need an invitation, that is why we have the open day.
After eight years of work, Hamilton Muslims celebrate the success of its attempts to try and reach out to promote wider understanding.
I think eight years ago when we started Islam Awareness Week people would come in an say 'Oh, we were expecting something else! (But) this is very simple and very nice', Gamadid said.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
The south-pacific island country of New Zealand is home to 36,000 Muslims, according to the 2006 census.
In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to the Australian way of life.
A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.
There are many people who think the mosque...that is where they make the bomb, Gamadid said.
This false image about Islam has changed forever in Hamilton.
But when they come and see for themselves they see something that is very simple, and that is the whole idea of Islam Awareness Week and the mosque open day.
The public can come here, share with us, eat with us, experience things with us, and that can be very helpful for us all.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net