Hundreds of people in Canberra, Australia gathered on Saturday at the Canberra Islamic Center in Monash, for National Mosque Open Day, a special event designed to foster a greater understanding of Islam and Muslims in the community.
The event, now in its third year, was set up as a way for the public to gain an insight into the religion as well as debunk misconceptions or stereotypes about Islam.
The Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA), in partnership with the Canberra Islamic Center (CIC), leads the event.
The Islamic Center’s president Azra Khan said more than 500 people visited the site. “We want to encourage the interaction between the communities. It’s all about individuals talking to real Muslims and gaining an understanding. “Guided tours, questions and answers sessions with Islamic Center members as well as plenty of food were all part of the event.
While many outsiders came to the Islamic Center not knowing many details about the religion, Khan said there’s more in common with Christianity and other religions that people think. One of the visitors to the center in Monash was Sam Ryan, who is in the middle of converting to Islam.
He said his visit during the open day was to get a greater understanding of the religion as well as Canberra’s Islamic community. “It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a few years and the more I researched it, the more it resonated with me,” he said.
Renee Jones also visited during the open day, and while she didn’t believe the stereotypes peddled by some politicians, she said it was eye-opening to get a first-hand look. “They’re an incredibly welcoming and inclusive community, with genuinely really lovely people who always feed you,” she noted.
“They’re all quite welcoming and great to engage with.”
While many came to the Islamic Center armed with questions about extremism and why women wear the burqa, Khan said many left with a greater understanding. “This is exactly the thing we as a community need to be doing more of so we can dispel those stereotypes and people can leave being more informed,” she said.