Amidst the season's heated political rhetoric involving Muslims, people around Orange County gathered at local mosques Sunday for "Open Mosque Day," a chance to get to know their Muslim neighbors better and learn about the realities of Islam firsthand.

First started by the Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization of mosques and other Muslim organizations, Open Mosque Day serves as an opportunity for people of different faiths to be introduced to Islam and Muslim culture. For this 14th annual event, 26 mosques in Orange County opened their doors – a small slice of about 500 participating mosques nationwide.

More than 50 visitors Sunday attended the Islamic Institute of Orange County, where they were able to take a tour, participate in a Q&A session, observe an afternoon prayer and learn about Islam. Throughout the day, people had a chance to clear up confusions and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims through casual conversation – a powerful tool, said Mustafa Umar, imam at the Islamic Institute of Orange County.

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