Winnipeggers learn about Muslim faith at Grand Mosque open house

More than a thousand people packed Winnipeg’s Grand Mosque on Waverley Street Sunday for an open house event.

'Don't judge us from our veil,' says Winnipeg Muslim woman Eptisam Esshaki

More than a thousand people packed Winnipeg’s Grand Mosque on Waverley Street Sunday for an open house event. 2:02

More than a thousand people packed Winnipeg's Grand Mosque on Waverley Street Sunday for an open house event.

The event was designed to bring people from all walks of life together to taste some food, tour the mosque and provide information about the Muslim faith.

Eptisam Esshaki said she hoped it would help dispel negative stereotypes about Muslims and help build ties in the community.
Winnipeggers were invited to taste food, interact with Muslims and learn more about Islam at the Winnipeg Grand Mosque Sunday. (Courtney Rutherford/CBC)

"Don't judge us from our veil, or a guy with a beard," said Esshaki. "We are just like you. We are normal human beings."

Since attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and dozens more injured, which ISIS has claimed responsibility for, there have been some reports across Canada of people lashing out against Muslims.

On Nov. 14, the day after the attacks, a mosque in Peterborough, Ont., was set ablaze. 

In another case, two Muslim women were accosted and verbally assaulted on a Toronto subway train on the evening of Nov. 18, the Toronto Transit Commission said.

In Manitoba on Sunday, a member of a church in Dauphin told CBC News of a man who had called its associated food bank claiming he hoped the church would burn down because it is sponsoring Syrian refugees.

Esshaki said the events make her feel nervous.

"Muslims here, especially women here, they can identify me, they know I'm Muslim because of the veil and I'm scared sometimes someone will grab me and beat me up," she said.

Carey Jackson took advantage of the mosque's open house invitation to learn more about Islam and its believers.

"Knowledge is everything," Jackson said. "Without  it people go out [with] rumours and innuendos, and this just clears it all up."

Mary Macdonald started "Have tea with me" as a way of meeting with and strengthening ties between Winnipeggers and women in the Muslim community. (CBC)
Another event meant to help build cross-cultural relationships in Winnipeg also recently started up, in part, as a response to rising tensions from the Paris attacks and Canada's stance on refugees.

Mary Macdonald started "Have tea with me" last week. Macdonald is urging Winnipeggers to open their doors and invite Muslims in for tea and to share stories.

"Then our society is stronger and hopefully the ultimate result is that things we see going on are diminished," Macdonald said.  

Tasnim Jagani said she thinks Macdonald's idea is "brilliant."

"It's not like going to Starbucks with somebody you don't know, it's real connections, meeting with real people from all different places and getting to know them," she said.


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