British Muslims see symbolism in the royal's visit



DUBAI // British Muslims across the UAE expressed their delight at the royal visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque yesterday, with one man calling it an essential part of Queen Elizabeth's first visit here in 31 years.

The monarch visited the Grand Mosque last night, just hours after arriving. She stopped to pay her respects at the private tomb of the late Sheikh Zayed, the founder and late President of the UAE.

The visit had to be made, said Simon Button, 38, who converted to Islam 18 years ago.

"It would have been a very sad thing if she hadn't have gone there, because the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a testament to Sheikh Zayed himself and it is one of the great legacies of the man who helped build Abu Dhabi and the UAE to the place it is today," he said.

In addition, her visit to the mosque would be sure to generate much press coverage in the UK, which Mr Button saw as beneficial to both countries.

"Such a high-profile figure as the Queen will equally raise the profile of the mosque to a much wider audience - people who have never heard of it will now see pictures and get to know more about Muslims and Islam," he said. "Hopefully they will see that Islam is capable of great beauty and not the ugliness that is portrayed all too often in the media."

Thorayya Mears, 30, an art teacher from Norwich who has been in the UAE for six months, called the Queen's visit last night "a really good thing".

"We have a really large Muslim population in England and the Queen visiting the mosque shows she's is open to Islam," she said. "It is an integral part of Britain today and the Queen needs to make sure that the Muslim community is happy and well integrated."

Shelina Jokhiya, a 32-year-old lawyer from London, said that she believed it was indicative of the Queen's moderate nature that she agreed to visit the mosque. She also said negativity against Islam was blown out of proportion,

"I'm from London and I have loads of friends from different cultures," she said. "It's only a small minority who really think Muslims and Islam to be a threat to society.

"For my friends and family it is not such a big deal that she is visiting the mosque, but it is a nice thing."

Joseph al Husseini, 25, a British Arab who grew up in the UAE, said it would give Muslims and non-Muslims alike a vote of confidence.

"I think all who hear about her visit will be encouraged to open their minds towards Islam, and Muslims will be divided into two camps," he said.

"The first will be overjoyed to hear of the Queen visiting such an important place of worship and the second will see it as something she has to do because she was invited.

"But on the whole, even those sceptical ones will be proud because it is a great place for her to see and it cannot be a bad thing for her to visit."

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