One Abbotsford mosque is being harassed online for an upcoming exhibit on the Islamic understanding of Jesus Christ – at an event meant to strengthen the community in the name of diversity.
The Abbotsford Islamic Centre is hosting its fourth annual Open Mosque Day on Feb. 22. But something new was added this year, a commemorative showcase of the life and teachings of Jesus from an Islamic perspective, where he is considered an important prophet.
The amount of hateful backlash surprised many of the organizers, who have put on similar exhibitions in other churches before, according to Adnan Akiel, founder and president of Bridging Gaps Foundation.
“It’s been more than in the previous years, and it’s unusual in terms of the comments that we’ve received,” Akiel said. “There were some threatening ones.
“Most were just derogatory.”
A large portion of the online attacks appear to come from Christians taking offence to the belief in Jesus as a prophet in another religion, others are just xenophobic, some are a mix of both.
“Even though the Islamic belief in Jesus is not the same as that in Christianity, there are many similarities that provide a platform of unity,” Akiel said. “The Mosque only intends to share information and clear misconceptions while completely respecting the diversity of different belief systems within the community.
“We just wanted to… bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
He says Muslims treat all their prophets equally, there is no ranking by order of importance.
“As Muslims, we don’t differentiate between different prophets. You don’t say Mohammad is better, or Jesus is better or Moses is better. We treat them all with equally with respect… we have no intention to disrespect people of any other belief.”
The organizers have been also been criticized for having a section where guests can try on a hijab. Akiel said the section shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
“Whoever is interested can try on the hijab, take pictures, have a good time. And there’s a bit of backlash on that as well, but that’s not unusual.
“Most of the backlash we’ve received has been on [the Jesus] aspect of Open Mosque Day.”
Akiel does say the mosque has also received a lot of support alongside the negative reactions.
“I really want to make that point, that we genuinely appreciate and love the positive support.”