Members of Muslim communities in the Montreal area held an open house Saturday to help dispel misconceptions about the religion and the community.
The aim, say organizers of the event at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at in Laval, was to have an honest and open dialogue with Muslims and non-Muslims alike to build bridges and learn from each other.
“The event is called Coffee and Islam and it’s a national event organized by our youth organizations in different cities,” explained Imam Raza Shah.
At his mosque’s open house, though the gathering was small and informal, they were earnest and open about what Islam stands for and how to counter misconceptions about the religion and various Muslim communities.
“Our doors are always open,” he told Global News. “We have an open-door policy. We want people to come visit our mosques and we want to connect with other people.”
Opening up and reaching out is more important now, he points out, given the hike in acts of hate since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict. According to law enforcement authorities across Canada, there has been an increase in hate crimes and hate incidents against Muslims, Arabs and Jews since then. People at the open house in Laval say acts like these must be denounced in the strongest terms.
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“It doesn’t matter if (someone) is Jewish, a Muslim, a Christian, (hate) is not what Islam teaches us,” said youth organization president Umar Latif.
Both he and Shah raise concerns about the role of social media in the spread of misinformation, and believe the best way to fight it is through constant dialogue.
Non-Muslims like Dylan Seto, who attended the open house, agree.
“I definitely think it makes people more open to each other, more accepting of each other,” he reasoned.
Shah says his and other mosques plan to have similar events with the hope that cultural bridges will continue to be built.
“To be honest, especially in Canada, we always need to rely on hope,” he stressed. “All of us come from different backgrounds, but the one thing that does bind us is that we are Canadians, and we should all together try to develop a peaceful society for the generations to come.”
He believes that can be accomplished that by not only wanting to be understood, but by also trying to understand the others.
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