One of Ottawa's largest mosques is reporting a sharp increase in the number of young men converting to Islam, which started after the deadly shootings on Oct. 22 at the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill.
Samy Metwally, the imam at the Ottawa Mosque, told CBC News he's never seen so many young men coming in after a major incident, wanting to become Muslims.
He says it's against his religious beliefs to turn them away.
Anywhere from 15 to 20 men in their 20s to 30s have come to the mosque to convert since the shootings, he said.
"This is the biggest number I have seen, by the way," Metwally said. "This is the biggest number after an event like this happens, and it was strange."
'They never come back again'
To convert, there is no official ceremony but a person reads out loud a testament of faith.
It's two sentences in Arabic, saying you believe there is one god and that Prophet Muhammad is his messenger, and it can be read aloud at home or anywhere else.
"We try to give them our contacts, we try to encourage them to come again, but unfortunately the vast, vast majority of new converts, they come once and they disappear," Metwally said.
"They never come back again. And this is a big concern for us."
Leaders call for rule requiring converts to take course
The National Council of Canadian Muslims worries that some new converts aren't on a sincere spiritual journey, and that they may be looking to join a cause for the excitement of fighting overseas, for example.
"If Islam is that cause, and that's the only reason that they're going for it, then clearly they're misguided, misdirected, and that's certainly not going to benefit them spiritually and certainly [it's] troubling for all of us," said Amira Elghawaby, a member of the council.
Some Muslim leaders say there should be a strict policy in place at all mosques across Ottawa, requiring potential converts to take a course in order to understand the religion.
"What we've been hearing from converts for years is that the Muslim community actually needs to do more for converts," Elghawaby said. "The community needs to be providing more Muslim 101 classes, we need to be inviting people who are new to the faith to come in and learn."
Imam Zijad Delic at the South Nepean Muslim Community agrees.
"It is very much important that our leadership takes this seriously, prepares a program or arranges a program that will help teach people who would like to become part of community," Delic said.
"Give them an introductory 101 Islam program to teach them what Islam is all about, what Islam stands for in terms of personal development … family relations, relations with people of other faith groups, what Islam says about being a good, faithful, contributing citizen and … living with people who are different than you are."