HALIFAX – The Ummah Mosque in Halifax held an open house Sunday afternoon to invite the public to learn more about Islam and discuss “the elephant in the room.”
The event included food, art and displays featuring commonly-asked questions about the religion.
There were also two panel discussions on the subjects of safety, national security and terrorism. The first panel included Halifax RCMP Superintendent Dennis Daley and Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais, while the second panel featured several Halifax imams.
Abdelkader Tayebi, the imam at Ummah Mosque, says it was a chance to spark open conversation in light of recent attacks, including Paris and San Bernardino.
“A lot of people have questions as to what is a mosque, what do muslims do inside a mosque, what goes on behind these walls. Is this a factory for terrorism for bombs?” he said.
“We are telling people come see for yourself and come speak to the people.”
Tayebi addressed the crowd, saying Islam denounces terrorism and that the community in Halifax wants to create a strong relationship with police.
Topics raised ranged from Islamophobia to whether Muslims in the city will see backlash due to world events.
During his remarks, the police chief echoed the need to talk openly about the issue.
“Is there any good time to talk about terrorism? No, there never is a good time. The best time is now. We have to be able to deal with the issues as they come up,” Blais said.
“As the expression says, the elephant in the room. The elephant is there and we will talk about it.”
However, not everyone agreed with the choice of panel topic, with some feeling the focus on terrorism only perpetuated negative stereotypes.
One woman told the crowd she had stopped into the open house with hopes of learning about the culture, only to be upset by the discussion taking place.
“Today was supposed to be a beautiful day where we could celebrate the community and learn more about what happens inside the mosque and that’s not what I’m hearing and I’m very sad about that,” she said.