Muslims feel welcomed in Winnipeg despite Paris attacks, association says

The Manitoba Islamic Association says people have been more tolerant and welcoming toward Muslims in Winnipeg, despite negative comments that have been surfacing on social media in the days following the Paris attacks.

Grand Mosque in Winnipeg hosting an open house this Sunday

Winnipeg Grand Mosque administrator Tasneem Vali says she has noticed people in Manitoba are more accepting and supportive, in part because of the connections local Muslims have made with the community at large. (CBC)

The Manitoba Islamic Association says people have been more tolerant and welcoming toward Muslims in Winnipeg, despite negative comments that have been surfacing on social media in the days following the Paris attacks.

Facebook and Twitter users may have noticed their social feeds flooded with debates over whether countries like Canada should let in refugees from Syria.

As well, Muslims in southern Ontario have been targeted by a string of potential hate crimes in the days since Friday's attacks in Paris.

But over at Winnipeg's Grand Mosque, association administrator Tasneem Vali says she has noticed people in Manitoba are more accepting and supportive, in part because of the connections local Muslims have made with the community at large.

Vali said she hopes those relationships will continue to grow, despite the seemingly growing amount of negativity about Islam circulating online.

"I know social media is out there and I know social media is, you know, talking about all these things," she said.

"We need to look beyond all that. I think the key is to have those personal connections, and once we have those personal connections, I think perceptions do change."

Vali said her voice mail was filled with hateful messages after Boko Haram kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria last year, but things have changed since then.

"I feel social media is its own little 'twilight zone,' let's call it that, because there is no personal connection. There is no face-to-face precautions, so people say what they want to say without any censure," she said.

"I don't usually go by social media as much as I go with the perception that I see, like I'll see at Tim Hortons or at Starbucks, or if I'm walking down the street, if I'm going to drop off my kids from school. So those things, I think, matter to me more."

The Grand Mosque, located on Waverley Street, is hosting an open house on Sunday from 3-5 p.m. In addition to cultural activities and refreshments, experts on Islam will be on hand to answer people's questions.

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