Alex Holmberg had never visited a mosque before. As an English language teacher, she wanted to better understand the culture of some of her Muslim students. Yesterday she had the chance to experience it.
“We tried a hijab. We had some lovely Arabic coffee. We had some wonderful food. I met some of the lovely people. It’s been incredibly friendly and welcoming,” said Holmberg.
Halifax’s Ummah Masjid and Community Centre opened its doors to the public Saturday as part of the Canada-wide Visit My Mosque event. Event co-ordinator Thierno Diallo hopes it helped others to see Muslims as regular Canadians who want to contribute to society.
“We are all the same and we all want what’s good for humanity,” Diallo said.
In the centre’s gymnasium, visitors were invited to read colourful, informative plaques with information on the history and doctrines of Islam. The plaques also showed the religion’s relationship with Christianity and innovations from the Islamic world in science and art.
Other features included an Islamic calligrapher, as well as a table where visitors could try on a hijab and ask Muslim women about their roles and rights in the religion.
Like Holmberg, many visitors had never been inside a mosque before. Sharon Samland learned that the Muslim community is diverse.
“I think, sometimes, people stereotype and put them in boxes like most Muslims come from the Middle East, (but) they don’t,” she said. “They’re from all over the world. So, we’ve been exposed to all kinds of people.”
Visit My Mosque is an initiative organized by the Canadian-Muslim Vote, a group encouraging Canadian Muslims to be politically active. In a news release, executive director Ali Manek described the event as “an opportunity for both the Muslim community and neighbours of the mosque to engage and interact with the intention of overcoming racism, Islamophobia, and discrimination against any community.”
Sameh Hassan, a board member for the Maritime Muslim Academy, said events like Visit My Mosque are essential in the current political climate. He referenced the current division in American politics, and talked about the value of communities coming together.
“Whenever there’s a tendency for polarization we need to stomp it because it’s not good for us. It’s not good for humanity,” Hassan said.
Arazoo Hoseyni, who answered questions at the hijab table, said every opportunity for conversation is valuable.
“I believe that educating someone is like opening their horizons, so being able to do that even for one person would be a huge deal,” said Hoseyni.