They sat next to each other in the Sunday sunshine chatting. Smiling and gesturing, they looked like familiar friends sharing familiar stories. But the two women -- one with her head and body wrapped in cloth, the other blond and wearing a floral dress -- were strangers until that afternoon. They met at the annual community barbecue at the Idriss Mosque in Northgate, where all faiths are invited to eat, socialize and get to know one another.
"One of the nicest things we can do is sit together and accept each other," said Aisha Alzaarir, one of the two women talking Sunday afternoon. She was raised a Mormon and became a Muslim in 2001.
"All of the preconceived notions are not what they seem," she said. "People see me with my headscarf and they want to ask questions. This gives them an opportunity to talk to me and ask me those questions."
Linda Wickman, seated next to her, was attending the barbecue for the first time and relished the chance to strike up conversations with people she didn't know who practice religions different from hers.
"The climate in the world today, people are intimidated and afraid to talk to each other," she said. "It gives me an opportunity to talk to people like Aisha and learn."