Open doors, open hearts: Ottawa's Muslim community shares traditions with residents

Families filled the basement of the Ottawa Mosque Saturday to learn more about Muslim traditions, food, and good will.

Annual event comes early in wake of Quebec City mosque shooting, and a rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims

On the same week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada has a problem with Islamophobia, members of the Ottawa Mosque decided to hold their annual Open Doors, Open Hearts event earlier than usual to help explain their  religion to the broader public. 

"Recently there's been a lot of misconceptions about Muslims," said Zakia Sanaye, who was leading tour groups around the mosque, explaining everything from why Friday is the day of prayer to the five pillars of Islam.

"We want to show the community that you know what, we are open, we are part of the community and we want to welcome them and [for them] to be able to see who we are and we want them to see that we're just like them." 

Shealyn Elliott gets a lesson on Henna from Halima Said: "I think it was great!" (CBC/Amanda Pfeffer)

Hasna Abdi-Nassir — a school girl volunteering with her sisters — said the event is usually held in the summer, but there was a deliberate decision to move it up.

"We want to show people that Islam is not a bad religion. Not terrorism."

Marcus Kaulback brought his toddler hoping to bridge the divide.

"Nowadays, with so much division, i think the only answer is understanding and acceptance and this is an excellent thing."

The Abdi-Nassir sisters volunteer their time at the Ottawa Mosque open house: "We want to show people that Islam is not a bad religion. Not terrorism," said Hasna, left. (CBC/Amanda Pfeffer)

Children had a chance to have their faces painted, get henna inscribed on their hands, and try on a hijab.

Caddy Ledbetter said it was a great chance to ask questions.

"I think its wonderful, because my daughters are seeing this wonderful community."