Hamilton Muslim leaders to meet with police, increase security after Quebec attack

Rally scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday as messages of solidarity and shock fill social media


Hamilton Muslim leaders are grappling with how to keep their communities safe in the wake of the attack that killed six people during evening prayers at a mosque in Quebec City.

Imam Sayed Tora, leader of the Hamilton Downtown Mosque, said members of the Muslim community will be meeting with the deputy chief of the Hamilton Police Service Monday afternoon.

Local mosques are planning to possibly hire security for the mosques especially during dawn and evening prayers, and when children are present, he said.

The Downtown Mosque announced it would cancel its evening children’s classes Monday “as a precautionary measure.”

Hamilton police confirmed representatives would meet with leaders today. While a spokesperson said the service would “do all the necessary proactive as well as related work for the safety and security of our community,” it declined to disclose any details of what that looks like in the wake of the Quebec attack and current community fears.

Tora said he listened to details about the attack while he took three of his five kids to school Monday.

“After the newscast was over I had a quick chat with them,” he said. “They were shocked as they were hearing the details. I just told them that this is something that is horrifying, yet, at the same time we have to remain strong in our faith, in our people, in our country. This is actually time that we need to be pulling our forces together so that we don’t allow anyone to break our unity.”

His 12-year-old daughter was shocked, he said.

“The only thing that she would say was that she can’t believe that this is happening here (in Canada),” he said. “That’s exactly the reaction of the members of the community.”

Milé Komlen, chair of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, said the event resonates locally in part because of the hate crimes at the Hindu Samaj in 2001, an “open wound that existed for a long time.”

“I think these types of incidents resonate with Hamiltonians because there’s a long history of attacks on places of worship,” he said. “When these things happen it really calls into question who we want to be as Hamiltonians, what kind of community we want to live in.”

Rallies to be held Monday

Students and Muslim leaders are staging a rally in support of the local Muslim community Monday, responding both to the U.S.’s ban on refugees from seven Middle East countries and to a tragic shooting during prayers at a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday night.

The rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at city hall to coincide with rallies in Quebec and elsewhere connected to the mosque shooting.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger called for the flags at city hall to be lowered to half mast and for the flag of Quebec to be raised.

“The City of Hamilton has been a safe haven for newcomers to this country for over 100 years,” Eisenberger said in a statement. “We will continue to welcome all those who seek safety and a new life in Canada.”

A vigil in solidarity with the victims of the attack is also planned at Burlington City Hall where there will be a candle-lighting followed by a minute of silence at 6 p.m.

‘Remain extra vigilant, but at the same time not to over-react’

Tora said Muslim leaders have been exchanging messages Sunday night and Monday morning.

“We are basically calling on the members of our congregations to remain extra vigilant, but at the same time not to over-react,” he said. “To remain calm and patient.”

He said the attack in Quebec takes the safety concerns to a new level than was experienced in the arson last fall.

“We are not talking about just an attempt of you know an attempt to set something on fire,” he said. “This is much more serious.”

Tora said it’s important for the community not to lose hope in the ideals of peace and unity in Canada.

“As much as this is coming as a great shock for all of us, knowing that this horrific terrorist attack (took place) on a peaceful group of worshippers in a mosque,” he said, “I think it’s important for us to also note that this will not shake our trust first and foremost in God, and then in our very fundamental Canadian values of tolerance, patience, acceptance, co-existence and unity.”

Kamran Bhatti, representing the Muslim Association of Hamilton, said the community has a strong relationship with police. He said he would hope to see “more surveillance” and “patrols in our communities making sure and reassuring the community members that our police service is there to support us.”

Andrea Horwath met with members of the Ibrahim Jame mosque, which has been repaired following last September’s arson attack. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

That mosque’s imam, Ayman al-Taher, said at the time that some members of the mosque had proposed hiring security while the congregants worship and pray.

In September, al-Taher said he’d been encouraging his congregation to remain optimistic, and to remember that the “broader picture” in Canada is one of welcome and positivity.


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