KELOWNA – For those who have never been inside, a mosque can seem a mysterious place.
Images of incense and ornate rugs facing the same direction, robed men on bent knees who are clearly very serious about their religion.
It’s not an easy place to walk into.
That’s why Kelowna resident Adnan Akiel Ahmad Bhat decided to organize an Open Mosque Day this weekend.
“We want people to see how we pray and see the arrangement around the mosque,” he says. “Sort of get rid of any skepticism about Islam or Muslims and mosques in general.”
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a Muslim to visit the mosque on Highway 33 in Rutland. It is open to anyone, day or night.
A small building on the corner of the highway between Homer and Gerstmar Roads, the mosque has parking for only about a dozen cars and the front door opens to an entrance area that doubles as a storage area. Boxes of snacks for the event tomorrow sit by the door, stacks of Arabic Qur’an and pamphlets are piled on a table.
If you’re going in the prayer room to your right, the entrance is where you leave your shoes, but if you are there just to have a look around, no one will hassle you if you keep them on. Visitors are encouraged to drop by and as long as you are respectful, you can stay as long as you like.
The main prayer room at the Kelowna Islamic Centre.
(ADAM PROSKIW / iNFOnews.ca)
“The mosque is open all the time and people can visit whenever they want and leave whenever they want,” Bhat says.
There are no rugs or incense in the prayer room. It is bright but small — not much bigger than an average living room. On one wall is a packed bookcase, on another a flat screen TV and a digital prayer schedule. If you’re lucky, someone will be praying aloud in Arabic but for the most part the room is peaceful and quiet.
On Friday, Nov. 27 at 11 a.m. there were six people in the mosque. A man in his thirties was praying in the corner with his young daughter next to him. An older man is sitting in one of the few chairs with a book in his lap. Two men stand quietly at the front of the room closest to the wall they all face and one man is on his knees, bent with his forehead touching the ground.
It’s not always so empty however. During prayers the whole building is packed.
The Centre has outgrown their space and they are raising money for a new building. A sketch of the new building is taped to the back of the front door, along with a financial breakdown.
They expect the new building will cost just under $1 million, and have raising a little less than a quarter of that so far.
Bhat emphasizes Saturday's Open Mosque Day is not a fundraiser but an informal welcoming and chance to dispel some myths surrounding Islam.
“This is for people who are curious about Islam and the mosque, or for people who already know and want to have a good time.”
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