Bury St Edmunds’ Muslim community opened the doors on its Friday prayer meeting last week to other faiths.
The Bury St Edmunds Islamic Cultural Organisation (Bico) has been holding its prayer meetings in the Quaker Meeting House in St John’s Street for about three months, since having to move out of rooms in Station Hill because of redevelopment.
Bico trustee Mohamed Ismail said: “We haven’t done anything with our Quaker friends until now. It was originally going to be only the Quakers, but then we decided to invite everyone.
“It’s a unique event in Bury. Our Sunday is Friday and these prayers are the most important of the week.
“Most mosques can’t invite spectators because they don’t have the space.”
Robin Bennett, of the Quakers, said: “They wanted to meet us and we wanted to meet them. We’re here on a Sunday and Tuesday and they’re here on Fridays – that’s why today has happened.”
Before the service he explained Friday prayers are traditionally in the afternoon and here they keep them short between 1pm and 2pm so members can return to work.
The service began with the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer with a chant in Arabic.
Mo explained that the sermon would be given in English and repeated in Arabic.
He added: “Arabic is traditional but English is spoken by all of us. English is the language that unites us.”
Immam Abdulla Hamah, from Cambridge, began his sermon by exploring the question of science and creation.
He said people saw a division between the two but added: “I have a degree in medical genetics and the science makes me more religious than before.”
He argued that the efficiency of the kidneys and the heart suggested they could not have evolved by accident.
Some of his sermon seemed aimed at expanding the understanding of Islam to those of other, or no, faith.
He argued that Islam began with Adam and Eve, who were seen as the first of 124,000 ‘messengers from God’ and spoke of others familiar to readers of the Christian Bible, including Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus .
He explained that Muslims believe Mohammed was the final messenger.
After the service the Rev Chris Andrews, chairman of the new West Suffolk Interfaith Community Forum, said: “This is invaluable – it doesn’t happen everywhere, It was very generous of the Muslim community to invite us.
“They’re in borrowed premises and it’s so good of them to welcome us.”
Mo said: “The vibe we’ve received so far has been positive. We can build on that in Bury.”
Bico is looking for a permanent home of its own.
Robert Everitt, St Edmundsbury’s portfolio holder for families and community, said: “It’s incumbent on us to facilitate where we can. Where we can help, we certainly will do – it’s part of our bigger community.”