For five hours on Saturday, the public was invited into mosques around B.C. to take part in Open Mosque Day – a B.C.-wide initiative to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The Masjid-Al Iman mosque in Victoria had an estimated 1,000 people show up for an opportunity to learn more about Islam, take a tour of the mosque, receive a henna tattoo and try on a hijab.
More importantly, according to the mosque’s imam Ismail Mohamed Nur, it brought people in to have conversations and get to know members of the Muslim community – nearly 3,000 of which live in Greater Victoria.
“It’s been great, amazing. It’s really heart-warming to see so many people coming out on a Saturday. It is really lovely to see,” said Imam Ismail Mohamed Nur.
Mohamed Nur notes that Victoria is not immune to racism and bigotry but believes that knowledge and understanding is the cure.
“I think the key is education. People, I believe, are racist because they don’t understand a different culture or different religion. That bigotry comes out of a place of fear and the best way to deal with fear is to educate. That’s what we are trying to do here,” said Mohamed Nur.
Hate crimes in Canada shot up by 47 per cent in 2017, according to Statistics Canada figures, the worst year since the federal government began tracking hate crime-related data in 2009.
The groups worst hit were Muslims, with a 207-per-cent increase.
The B.C. Muslim Association – which spearheaded the Open Mosque Day with local support – felt opening mosque doors and providing education about their religion to non-Muslims will help to curb the ignorance and fear.
“I was just encouraging people to ask as many questions as they want. There is no such thing as an inappropriate question,” said Mohamed Nur.
The Masjid Al-Iman mosque on Quadra invited the public in today to learn more about Islam and chat with Muslims in Victoria. The event was part of the province-wide Open Mosque Days. Initial estimates say over 1,000 people participated. #openmosqueday @deardubow @VictoriaNews pic.twitter.com/xGx8nJApfT
— Keri Coles (@KeriColesPhotog) February 17, 2019
“In a world with ever-growing stigma and confusion around Islam and Muslims, we want to open our doors, our minds and our hearts to everyone around us, irrespective of their background and build a stronger community.”
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