Vandalism evokes strong reaction from Muslim groupsWritten by Staff Writer
Local and national Muslim groups are demanding swift action against vandals who attacked two west Quebec mosques.
“These are clearly hate crimes and authorities should act with speed and determination to catch the culprits so that they face the full force of the law,” Mohammad Zakaria Khan, president of the Muslim Coordinating Council (MCC-NCR), a local umbrella group said in a statement on Jan. 9.
Likewise, newly-appointed Canadian Islamic Congress national president, Sikandar Khan, expressed dismay that places of worship and education in Canada continue to be targeted by vandals. In a separate statement to the media, the CIC termed the attacks in Gatineau as “heinous” and “symptomatic of a disturbing recent escalation in national anti-Muslim attitudes.”
The Outaouais Islamic Centre, located off Saint Joseph Blvd., serves about 5,000 Gatineau Muslims. It was first hit on Jan. 2. The windows of the mosque were smashed, and there was an attempt to torch two cars in the parking lot. The mosque was vandalized again three days later. In the early hours of Jan. 5, closed-circuit cameras caught a lone man in his 20s painting Islamophobic and racist slurs on the building's exterior walls and entrances.
In the same week, the nearby Mosque of Aylmer received an email saying Muslims should leave Canada. The message included a photo threatening violence.
The OIC has been attacked four times since June last year. In June and November, rock-throwing teenagers broke car and building windows. The teens were arrested.
Authorities believe the most-recent attacks on the OIC were committed by the same person, and are treating the case as a hate crime.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney issued statements against the Gatineau attacks, and Marc Bureau, the city's mayor, visited the OIC Friday prayer on Jan. 6.
While calling for justice, Muslim organizations have stressed that they do not believe that the incidents reflect the sentiments of the vast majority of Canadians. In his statement to the Muslim community, the MCC president said:
“We note that such vandalism has also targeted churches, synagogues, cemeteries, schools, and private property. In a country as free as Canada it is unfortunate that some individuals abuse their freedom and seek to hurt their fellow Canadians or damage their property. The full force of the law should be brought to bear in such cases.
Mr. Khan urged Muslims to reach out to members of the wider community and build bridges by following "the teachings of the Holy Quran and Hadith that emphasize honesty, integrity, good manners, unity, constructive acts, caring for neighbours, relatives, orphans and the needy, respectful and constructive dialogue with fellow human beings of other faiths."
Members of the Muslim community are also being asked to review their security measures and to refer to advice in the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations' "Muslim Community Safety Kit." The kit is available online at: www.caircan.ca.
Also see “Mosque vandal does not speak for all Canadians” on page 9.
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