As-salāmu ʿalaykum, a Muslim greeting meaning “peace be upon you,” was what visitors to the Kelowna Islamic Centre heard as they took part in Saturday’s Open Mosque Day.
Food, presentation boards with themes around Islam and a large cardboard cutout of an Instagram post were showcased to Muslims and non-Muslims alike as they toured the centre.
Hosted by the Muslim Students Association at UBCO along with the Kelowna Islamic Centre, the event allowed the community to learn more about the Islamic faith at the centre’s new mosque on Highway 33.
Sumayia Avedin, president of the student association, said after moving to Kelowna from Malaysia, she finds people are welcoming and open “but people are a little bit apprehensive when it comes to Islam. They hear lots of stuff that doesn’t really correlate with their experiences with Muslims and there’s this curiosity, what actually is Islam about?”
“What we’re doing with an event like this… it’s OK to ask questions and learn. We’re getting the conversation started… and it provides an opportunity to know that we share a lot more in common. Our similarities are more than our differences,” she said.
About 200 members are part of the association at UBCO.
Avedin said one of the biggest misconceptions she experiences is people aren’t familiar with Allah, the God of Islam.
“People think it’s a Muslim God, or a moon God, or some strange deity that (we) worship, but actually Allah is just the arabic word for God. Arab Christians also call God Allah,” Avedin said.
As a millennial, she said she grew up with a different version of her faith from what was shown on T.V. and events like Open Mosque Day, which is held across B.C., are ways to combat the negative portrayal of Muslims.
After all the negative messaging around Muslims and Islam, she said President Donald Trump’s tweets are a symptom of a larger, ongoing problem.
“He would not have had that message reach so many people if they had the opportunity to interact with Muslims,” she said.
Mostafa Shoranick, president of the B.C. Muslim Association Kelowna branch, said the new mosque opened in July, and the association is still putting in the finishing touches.
“It’s not just a place of worship, we’re trying to make it a centre to bridge the gap between muslins and non-muslims,” he said.
Last week, the Islamic centre held a lunch with the Jewish community.
“Our main message is that people are equal in the eyes of God. We believe as Canadians that religion is between you and God, but the country is for all,” Shoranick said.