A couple of local mosques held open houses this weekend, partly in response to what happened in Quebec last weekend. They got it together pretty quickly, judging from what the Imam said.
Sadly, my visit was cut short because I had prior plans to meet some friends, but it was enjoyable. Everyone was very welcoming, friendly. The lady who's in charge of the community centre was definitely a leader; even more so than the imam even. Definitely a woman to be followed, but not hard at all - warm, in-drawing, friendly. They all did their best to be friendly, inclusive.
I didn't get to do the whole tour of the mosque, but I did see the community hall, the women's prayer room and the men's prayer room. I was present during their sunset prayer, and one of the things that struck me was how close they stand to each other, even when there aren't a lot of people in the room - shoulder to shoulder, all facing towards Mecca. You don't see that in Christian churches. Even when the pews are packed, everyone still seems to be trying to get away from each other. One of the things that was mentioned was that part of the reason they stand together in the way they do, is to indicate that none of them is any more significant than any other of them.
The imam's wife answered regarding a question about the separation of genders in the mosque. Apparently she's been wearing a full covering since she was 17 or 18, and part of the reason was that she got tired of worrying about what to wear. When the genders are in the same room during prayer, the men are in the front, the children next, and the women in the back. The imam's wife says she prefers it, because she doesn't have to worry about things like a man staring at her ass while she's kneeling or prostrating in prayer.
She did not use the word 'ass'.
Their involvement in the local community was a lot more than I realised - not just within their own group, but also with the neighbourhood at large. One thing that they do, is during Ramadan, when they break their fast in the morning before fasting during the day, is have a morning meal together, to which everyone is welcome - including non-Muslims. They offer a lot to their members, and involve themselves locally.
I will never agree with gender divide, nor organised religion, but they did a very good job of explaining why they do things, and an incredibly good job of welcoming people in.
I wish I could have stayed for more of the visit. It was a very enjoyable. I'm very glad I went.
Addendum 2017 02 07: At work today I mentioned to the Muslim couple I'm buddies with, that I'd found it odd how they stand so close together for prayer, even in an almost empty room; and the husband told me why they do it: They stand shoulder to shoulder so that the devil can't get between them and whisper things that will turn them from the path of Islam, make them do bad things, et cetera. So, it's them helping each other keep the devil at bay.