British-Palestinian Human Rights Activist Ahlam Akram: I Avoid Going to the Mosque Mainly because of the Incitement
British-Palestinian human rights activist Ahlam Akram appeared on a Hewar TV show, where she said that the mosque plays a negative role in promoting acceptance of the other. "I have stopped going to the mosque," she said. "Why? The one main reason is the culture of incitement." Akram further said that "if we believe in the values of democracy, we should abide by the British laws, [which] guarantee justice, equality, and freedom." The show aired on March 10.
Ahlam Akram: "The most important thing that the new refugees coming here should understand is that in this country, their rights are protected and they are respected. Your identity is not determined by the color of your skin, your appearance, or the hijab you are wearing. Here, they care about your human identity more than about your appearance. The one condition is that you do not become a burden on society. Let me tell you something – I refrain from going to any mosque, or rather, I have stopped going to the mosque. Why? The one main reason is the culture of incitement. Secondly, when I went to Regent's Park Mosque, I had to go through the toilets to get to the women's section."
Male Panelist: "Saying such a thing is offensive. This may have happened to you once, but it is not the case in all mosques."
Ahlam Akram: "I went a few times, and I saw and heard the way they talked to me as a woman, and the way they told me to hide myself and enter through the toilets. Let me say it loud and clear: The entrance to the women's section of Regent's Park Mosque is through the toilets. How am I supposed to feel about that?"
Moderator: "So what exactly are you saying? That the mosque is a barrier to integration, or what? I want to understand."
Ahlam Akram: "The mosque has played a very negative role in developing..."
Moderator: "The culture of accepting the other..."
Ahlam Akram: "Exactly.
"If we really believe in the values of democracy – how come there is no democracy in our countries of origin?"
Female Panelist: "This is a great problem. That's why we need revolutions."
Ahlam Akram: "If we believe in the values of democracy, we should abide by the British laws, because these laws guarantee justice, equality, and freedom. These are all guaranteed by law. We use the word ['democracy'] just like that, as if it has no meaning. This is evidence in our unwillingness to commit ourselves to British law. We have established our own laws for our societies.
"Our laws, which are derived from our culture and our religion, were appropriate 1,400 years ago, but not anymore."
Moderator: "I don't want to reach the point of an affront to our religion..."
Ahlam Akram: "I am not affronting Islam. You misunderstood me.
"We are lying to ourselves. We all say that we believe in the values of democracy, but democracy is totally absent from our countries and our minds.
"Integration does not mean that my son or my daughter will have no connection to their country [of origin]. On the contrary. I believe that their feelings and thoughts on this run much deeper than ours. You don't need to be constantly telling your son what happened in Palestine. What matters is the way your present it, in addition to personal experience. I tried to take my children every year to visit [Palestine]. And indeed, they have become connected to the country through their love for it, for its people, and for their family. But if you told me to let my son live there or told me that he could possibly live there – that's inconceivable. Inconceivable!"