Following on from our Muslim Awareness workshop, hosted here at St James Park by Riz Rehman from the PFA, we were invited down to the Exeter Islamic Centre to have a look round the mosque and share some food and discuss how we can work together.
The mosque is literally just round the corner from St James Park, so seven FITC staff, along with FITC trustee Martin Weiler and Exeter City FC player Ollie Watkins, who is our One Game One Community ambassador this season, headed down to meet the Imam, Mohammed Abrar.
He explained what goes on in the mosque on a day to day basis and then we were invited up to the men's prayer hall to observe the 1.30 prayers. Men and women pray separately at the mosque, but Catherine was allowed to enter the hall with her hair covered. We had checked beforehand on mosque etiquette, so everyone was in full-length trousers and dressed respectfully.
After lunch, we discussed how we can work with the Muslim community here in Exeter - the mosque is the largest in the South West and there at least 500 families who are involved with it, so we had a look round the sports hall and talked about what sessions we could offer and also what coaching courses might be available for young Muslims to take part in to then go out into the community to pass on their knowledge.
Ollie Watkins said that he found the trip to the mosque fascinating and very much enjoyed meeting the youngsters - despite a couple of them saying they were Liverpool fans!
"I didn't really know what to expect from the day, to be honest," Ollie said. "But we were made so welcome that I didn't want to leave! It was really interesting to listen to what the Imam had to say about how the mosque operated and about the prayers and what they meant. I think it's easy to make judgements about people through fear and mistrust because of misinformation, but these are people just like you and I - and the kids were all football mad, exactly like I was at their age. I really hope that we can work together - and maybe a couple of these children might come and play for Exeter City one day."
We really hope that we can build on our new links with our neighbours and hope to welcome them to St James Park soon for a tour of our facilities.