Canadians rally around Muslim community following New Zealand massacre
Published Friday, March 15, 2019 9:45AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 15, 2019 6:32PM EDT
Canadian Muslims have expressed their sadness and shock at the shooting deaths of 49 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand.
A 28-year-old Australian man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist terrorist attack.
Muslims making their way to the Bait Ul Islam Mosque in Vaughan, Ont., early Friday morning were still coming to terms with the horrific attack, the worst mass shooting in New Zealand history.
“When I heard this news I was devastated, it’s hard to imagine when people have gathered for prayer in a mosque somebody would have the heart to kill them in cold blood,” Lal Malik, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Canada, told CP24.
“We pray that people understand that differences should not be resolved through violence,” he said. “Islam literally means peace, a religion which promotes peace.”
With tears streaming down his cheeks, Malik said special prayers would be held Friday for those “mercilessly” killed and the injured.
‘We can feel the pain’: Ont. imam
Attaul Wasab, an imam at a mosque in Brampton, Ont., said the events in New Zealand shocked his community.
“We can feel the pain because we have been the victim of this kind of shooting back in Pakistan. We have families that have moved here for that reason, they could not go to their places of worship,” he told CP24 Friday morning, calling the live-streamed attack inhuman.
Muhammad Afzal Mirza, imam of the Bait Ul Islam Mosque in Vaughan, Ont. led Friday morning prayers there and said whenever innocent people die, everyone hurts.
“When a church is attacked it hurts. When a school is attacked it hurts. And now a mosque was attacked and it is painful,” he told CP24. “What does it take for an individual or individuals to be this brutal and inhumane?”
At the London Muslim Mosque, other faith leaders attended with one priest saying, “we stand with you. We love you.” London, Ont. Mayor Ed Holder agreed and said “we will win by standing together.”
In Windsor, Ont., Pastor Riley McLaren attended a mosque saying, “we are angry. we are hurt and we want to sit with you in solidarity.” Windsor-West NDP MP Brian Masse criticized the world’s reaction and said, “thoughts and prayers aren't enough anymore. We are failing.”
Parallels to Quebec City mosque shooting
Canadian Muslims were targeted in a terrorist attack in January 2017 when a convicted gunman Alexandre Bissonnette shot dead six worshippers and injured 19 others at a Quebec City mosque. He was sentenced to life in prison in February.
On Friday, the head of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre Boufeldja Benabdallah said families of victims in Quebec City who may now be forced to relive the horror of their experience.
"Imagine the children of those families here in Quebec who are hearing it on the radio and will watch their mothers cry and ask, 'Why are you crying?' " Benabdallah said.
He said it’s time for lawmakers to legislate against extremism.
"We must get back to work once again to explain, to tell these extremists of all stripes who politicize religion, like extremists who use race as a basis for discrimination, that we must change," he said. "The world cannot continue like this."
Mohamed Labidi, a past president of the Quebec City mosque, told reporters Friday he regretted that humanity has not learned its lesson after the attack on his community. Following morning prayers, he said worshippers were “very shaken.”
A now-deleted Twitter account that is believed to be linked to the accused New Zealand shooter shows what appear to be three assault-rifle magazines, one of which has Bissonnette's name on it.
Security increased at Canadian mosques
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the threat level remains unchanged in Canada but police in many cities across the country said they were stepping up patrols around places of worship on Friday.
"Obviously they are paying particular attention to Muslim communities, mosques and Muslim facilities across the country," Goodale said, adding they’re hearing about security concerns.York regional police chief Eric Jollef said there would be an increased police presence around all places of worship in the area.
Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook, a Toronto police spokeswoman said “we will have a heightened police presence in the community, focusing on places of worship -- especially mosques.”
A release sent on behalf of several Islamic associations in Manitoba said that mosques across the province will be holding Friday prayers this afternoon, despite grief and concerns over copycat attacks.
“Members of the Muslim community are asked to be vigilant and cautious, but also show their resilience by attending Friday prayers this afternoon,” the release said.
At some Metro Vancouver mosques, flowers have been left to signify the lives lost in New Zealand.
Badre Hassani, who was praying at the Jamia Masjid Mosque on Friday morning, said despite the attacks, he is still feeling safe.
"I am not concerned at all. I am sad,” Hassani said.
Canadian Islamic groups condemn attacks
Fellow B.C. worshipper Abdu Al Jarsha hopes Canadians will rally together to denounce hate, he said “this is an invitation right now for everyone to stand together against terrorism, against bigotry, racism, prejudice."
Groups across Canada denounced the attack, including the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, which is based in Calgary, shared a similar sentiment.
"This is nothing but hate against Muslims. This is nothing but Islamophobia," Imam Syed Soharwardy said in a statement.
Muhammed Sayyed, president of the Muslim Society of Guelph, told CTV Kitchener that the community had circled around it’s Muslim members.
“I think everyone’s message is the same, there is no room for hate,” he told CTV Kitchener.
The Islamic Social Services Association of Manitoba (ISSAM) was Friday hosting a two-day anti-hate conference on race, gender, class and religion.
“The more news you see the more difficult it gets, just the barbarity in which they were done, literally walking up to the people who were praying for their life and just shooting. It’s surreal,” ISSAM’s executive director Shahina Siddiqui told CTV Winnipeg.
---- With files from The Canadian Press