The Aftermath of the Vandalism of Assunnah MosqueWritten by Yosra Abdelaziz
Friday morning I found out that an Ottawa mosque was vandalized. Someone had broken a couple of windows and the double-paneled glass door at the sisters' entrance. How do I know that this was the sisters' entrance? Because this is my mosque. I would know that bench and shoe rack anywhere.
As a resident of the Ottawa-South area, Assunnah Muslim Association (previously named Darusssunnah) has been a part of my life. I remember uncomfortably sitting all huddled in the crowded old musallah, just to listen to Sheikh Ismail Al-Batnuni's weekly talks. I remember the excitation and feeling of anticipation when it was announced that taraweeh would be held in the unfinished masjid's lot. My children have attended several of the rich children's programs there, and we've prayed there. This mosque is our home.
So the news on Friday hurt. It was upsetting to hear that someone attacked our home, our masjid. Later in the evening, the CBC aired this story, and showed the CCTV footage of the person who threw stones at our beloved masjid. After watching this, one thing became abundantly clear: this man was angry. Very very angry. He exerted so much force and energy to make sure he broke those windows.
This made me feel guilty. You might think that's a bizarre reaction to have, but let me explain. It made me feel guilty that this man, probably one of our neighbours, felt so angry at us, that he felt he had to come in the dead of the night to throw stones at our building.
What did we do to cause such a reaction? What do our neighbours know about this great big building in the middle of a residential area? I'm sure they know nothing about it, besides the fact that every Friday afternoon, we are filling up all the parking spots in the plaza next door, and that one month a year, there's excessive traffic in this area until very late at night.
Muslim communities tend to be very reclusive. We stick to our own, trying to find the strength to adhere to a minority religion that isn't often reflected in the mainstream. We work very hard to foster an Islamic upbringing for our kids, and hold true to our core beliefs.
But what have we done to introduce ourselves to our neighbours? Have we been conscientious and friendly neighbours? Do we smile and say hi when we see our neighbours outside? Or do we look at the ground, frowning, trying to avoid any eye contact? Do we help our neighbours bring in their groceries? Or are we only ever blocking their driveways?
This isn't to say that what happened is deserved. Vandalism is never deserved. But it has made me wonder about how we reach out to our community, if at all?
It's time for Muslims to stop lurking on the outskirts of society, waiting for disaster before we react. We need to be proactive. We need to reach out to our communities, invite them into our mosques, and show them that we are good neighbors and good citizens. We need to show them that there is no reason for anyone to throw rocks.
Muslims have been in Ottawa for several decades now. I think it's time we get to know our neighbours.
Yosra Abdelaziz is a Psychology student and a stay-at-home mother of two.
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