Take off your shoes, stay a while: P.E.I. mosque welcomes all to open house

The Masjid Dar As-Salam mosque in Charlottetown welcomed more than 200 visitors during an open house on Saturday.

'Lots of visitors and lots of questions and I was very happy to answer them,' says open house volunteer

Visitors were invited to explore the carpeted prayer hall in Masjid Dar As-Salam. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Laughter floated in the air with the smells of Arabic coffee as the Masjid Dar As-Salam mosque in Charlottetown welcomed all visitors during an open house on Saturday.

The event was hosted at the mosque on MacAleer Drive by the Muslim Society of P.E.I. to give the curious a chance to come inside and learn more about the city's mosque and Islamic religion.

Organizers say it was an opportunity to welcome anyone, and for everyone to learn more.

"To educate the people and to create awareness so that people can understand that we are no different, just like any other parishioner," said Najam Chishti, president of the Muslim Society of P.E.I. "We come and pray and we live in peace and tranquility."
A number of politicians were among the visitors including provincial MLA Kathleen Casey, seen here with open house volunteers. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The doors opened at 10 a.m. and more then 200 people had stopped by before the event finished at 1 pm.

Everyone was asked to remove their shoes before entering the carpeted prayer hall but were eagerly welcomed to explore inside.

The basement was filled with different regional foods like namak paray and there was fresh brewed Arabic coffee for those looking for a taste.

Literature on the Islamic religion was available, as well as volunteers who were eager answer any questions, such as Khadija Ghanam.

Khadija Ghanam was happy to volunteer and show people around the mosque as part of the open house. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

"I wanted to be able to show to the whole community, and get them to know the Muslim community," Ghanam said.

"There was lots of visitors and lots of questions and I was very happy to answer them and get to know lots of people so it was really a very good day."

A number of politicians were among the visitors including Premier Wade MacLauchlan, Opposition Leader James Aylward, federal MP Sean Casey and provincial MLA Kathleen Casey.

There were also other religious groups who stopped in to learn about their Muslim neighbours.
Members of the Central Queens United Church youth group were excited to visit the mosque as part of learning about other religions on Prince Edward Island. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The Central Queens United Church youth group from Hunter River loved the food and were glad to learn more about the Islamic religion.

"I think it is a good opportunity to learn new things and just a good way to meet new people,"said Finn McCourt. 
Najam Chishti, president of the Muslim Society of P.E.I., said he hopes the mosque can expand to serve the growing Muslim community. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

P.E.I.'s first permanent mosque only opened in 2012, Chishti said, but is already feeling small.

"I have been living here since 1979 and in the last 10 years, the population has almost quadrupled," Chishti said.

"When immigrants come, they want to know what is there for their children, what is there for them ... and since we have built the mosque, many professionals have stayed on the Island and have created their businesses."
A number of regional snacks were on hand for people to sample during the open house. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Chishti said the congregation has grown since the mosque opened in 2012, with between 140 and 150 showing up for Friday prayers.

The Muslim Society of P.E.I. is in the process of purchasing more land behind the current mosque, looking to expand to keep up with the growing population.

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