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Grande Mosquée de Paris

In many parts of the world, mosques are out-of-bound for non-followers. I’ve even known of mosques which clearly sign-posted that non-Muslims are strictly prohibited to enter. Add to the fact that I’m female, getting access to the compound within these mosques would be even trickier, especially in accordance to traditionalists, Muslim women should preferably pray at home, or otherwise be segregated to a separate room or at the back of the prayer hall or behind certain barriers, not side by side with the men.

Of course, that is not always the case. In certain cities or countries, mosques can be visited by non-Muslims outside of prayer sessions, provided certain guidelines such as appropriate attire and respectful observations are adhered to. This is the face of Islam that is encompassing, encouraging deeper understanding than beyond the portrayals in the media which are often misunderstood and maligned, and fostering links with the community at large regardless of the religion its individual practices.

The Great Mosque of Paris (La Grande Mosquée de Paris) is one which doors are open to all. Built in the 1920s in commemoration of the valiant Muslim tirailleurs who fought on France’s behalf, it has even once transformed into a hidden sactuary for Jews who were being persecuted during the Holocaust. Today, it aims to foster community relationships with believers and non-believers alike, and our guide couldn’t emphasise enough that their duty is to forge understanding that Islam is peaceful by nature and unity belies its core teaching.

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Day 272: Forbidden (to me) mosque

Over the years, I have visited a lot of Buddhist temples, perhaps even more churches/cathedrals, a handful few Hindu temples, and peeked into a synagogue once (not properly visited though). I’m only really missing out on visiting a mosque now, no? The one photographed here is only a small one. Regardless, given I am non-muslim, mosque visit is pretty much out of bound.

I should have probably gone to one in Dubai or Abu Dhabi when I was in the UAE last year. Not in Sharjah though (one even was clearly marked at the doors – non-Muslims forbidden to enter). There are a couple of rare ones that are open to everyone that I know of. However, Abu Dhabi was too far from Sharjah where I was based, whereas Dubai has a fixed guided visit time at 10am that simply wouldn’t work when taken into consideration the morning office traffic flow from Sharjah that could see me stuck for 2-3 hours even at 7am departure. One word – eeek!

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