British Columbia

'We want people to meet Muslims in a very human way': Mosques open across B.C.

Mosques across B.C. are opening their doors on Saturday and welcoming Muslim and non-Muslim people, for the first province-wide Open Mosque Day.

Organizers seek to educate people about their faith

The Burnaby Islamic Centre features lots of natural light and wooden beams to highlight the surrounding nature. (Jennifer Wilson/CBC )

Mosques across B.C. are opening their doors on Saturday and welcoming Muslim and non-Muslim people for the first province-wide Open Mosque Day.

Organizers of the event hope to educate people about their faith and help reduce some of the stigma surrounding Islam. 

"We want to address misconceptions, but at the same time we want people to meet Muslims in a very human way," said Adnan Akiel, program manager for Open Mosque Day.

There are a few hundred families in the Kelowna area who attend services at the Kelowna Islamic Centre, said Hamid Butt. (Christine Coulter/CBC)

Mosques around the world and individually in B.C. have organized similar events. However, this is the first time major mosques across province have united to host an event all on the same day. 

"We wanted to show the unity of the Muslim community all across B.C. when it comes to reaching out to people of the wider society and engaging with them," said Akiel.

"Doing it as a coordinated event is just a symbol of how much we care when it comes to building a stronger community."

What to expect

Mosques are always open to anyone. However, this event is designed to answer questions about Islam, said Akiel.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT, people can visit participating mosques where there will be food and activities offered.

"The event is open to people of all faiths, no faith, regardless of your age, gender, orientation, or age," Akiel told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. 

He adds that there is no dress code, but modest dressing is encouraged.

"We wanted to open up the doors of our mosque so people can learn about who Muslims are and what Islam is firsthand."

Participating mosques

The Burnaby branch of the B.C. Muslim Association is one of the mosques taking part on Saturday.

Imam Yahya Momla is inviting people to come and see the beautiful open space inside, which features wooden columns throughout and lots of natural light.

"There is absolutely no artificial light needed in the mosque throughout the day and that was purposefully done," Momla told CBC's Jennifer Wilson.

Hamid Butt, one of the board directors at the Kelowna Islamic Centre, looks forward to showing people the new mosque in Kelowna. (Christine Coulter/CBC)

Meanwhile, in Kelowna, the public is invited into the Kelowna Islamic Centre's new building.

"We're very happy to have this bigger place," said Hamid Butt, one of the board directors at the centre.

There are a couple hundred families in the Kelowna area who attend services at the new mosque, Butt told CBC's Christine Coulter.

Bridging the gap

Stats Canada found that hate crimes targeting Muslim, Jewish and black people, rose by 47 per cent in 2017. 

"Non-Muslims in general have a responsibility to take a moment to understand who Muslims are and what Islam is, especially if they have an opinion [on] Islam,"  said Akiel. 

"And Muslims have a responsibility of doing a better job in reaching out to the wider community and telling people what Islam is."

Mosques are open to the public anytime, but this Saturday, Feb. 16 mosques in B.C. are actively inviting people in the community to come in to learn more about the faith and the people who follow it. Adnan Akiel explains why he believes it's needed now more than ever. 8:02

with files from Christine Coulter, Jennifer Wilson, Daybreak North, Daybreak South, Early Edition