Ismail Mohamed Nur, Imam of the mosque, speaks to the crowd Saturday afternoon during Open Mosque Day. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Public packs Victoria mosque during B.C.’s Open Mosque Day

‘The best way to deal with fear is to educate. That’s what we are trying to do here’

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.

RELATED: Open mosque day is Saturday

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.

RELATED: Walk a mile in her hijab event encourages religious tolerance

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.

RELATED: City of Victoria shares launch of Ramadan with local imam

“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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The Open Mosque Day event was held in conjunction with the B.C. Muslim Association and saw mosques across B.C. opening their doors to the public as an opportunity to build community and to teach and answer questions about Islam, the mosque and the Muslim community. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Sami Muntaser, education director for the Masjid Al-Iman mosque, and Victoria City Councillor Sharmarke Dubow share conversation at Open Mosque Day in Victoria. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Nawab Shah, fundraiser for the Masjid Al-Iman mosque, gives a tour of the mosque during Open Mosque Day in Victoria Saturday. (Keri Coles/News staff)

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