'To be honest, my heart is broken': Calgary Muslims troubled by Quebec mosque shooting, Trump travel ban
But 'incredible show of solidarity’ after difficult week heartens local religious community
Three local Muslims spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener about the questions these events raise for Calgary's Muslim community.
Shima Safwat is a mother of four and the founder of One Nation Foundation, a local non-profit that organizes interfaith events. Akbar Ali is a student and the president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association at the University of Calgary. Hiba Fadol is an oil and gas professional and a volunteer with the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
Below is an abridged version of their conversation with Eyeopener host David Gray.
Shock and denial
Q: Shima, what was it like watching the events unfold this week?
A: To be honest, my heart is broken. I can't believe it, because I put myself in the same situation, my husband and my kids, every day in the mosque. Every day at 8 p.m. it's our night prayer. I can't imagine my husband can go and never come back.
It's heartbreaking for me. My little son goes every day to study Qur'an and read Qur'an with the imam. He was watching the news with me and he said, 'Mom, they killed him in the mosque.' I'm lucky that he didn't ask why.
Q: What would you have said if he asked why?
A: I don't know. I was thinking yesterday, what can I tell him? But I have no answer.
Q: Hiba, do you have an answer?
A: Not an answer you'd give a child. I don't know how you reconcile yourself with this in a way that you can communicate to a child, except to say that there are evil people out there with that intent.
It's a very difficult situation for adults, never mind for children, to explain. Heartbreaking is definitely the word. I think there's a lot of shock, there's a lot of denial. In some cases, some people still think this cannot happen in our backyard. And some people, sadly, might have been shocked but not so surprised it did happen.
Show of solidarity 'incredible'
Q: Akbar, how did you react?
A: It's very heartbreaking. I attend mosque very regularly as well. It's very scary that there are these kinds of rifts being created and such disasters occurring in the name of religion, and because of religion. It's very sad.
Q: This event happened against the backdrop of the U.S. announcement of the immigration ban. We can't say they are directly related, but how do you interpret these events as they unfold, Shima?
A: People are so full of misconceptions and misunderstanding and miscommunication between Muslims, between them and Muslims. So I can describe these events as ignorance. People don't know anything about us.
Q: Hiba, how do this week's events affect your life in Calgary?
A: In my volunteer capacity with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, I've been talking to a lot of different people. I'm trying to get a sense of where people are at, and participating in different vigils and prayer services, and offering the organization support as well.
There's a lot of fear, so there's a lot of attempts to reassure folks, a lot of attempts to let people know, to remind people of the incredible show of solidarity that we've seen from Canadians across the country.
'Spend a day with us'
Q: Akbar, you've grown up in a post 9/11 world. You're a young Muslim male living in the west. You read stuff online, perhaps you hear stuff about retaliation. How do you deal with all this?
A: At first, growing up, especially in my teenage years, I personally started seeing more and more on the media or wherever it was of my religion associated with these terror acts, when I know that Islam is nothing even close to that.
It hurts a lot and it still does. But what you end up realizing is that the power of love is a lot more powerful than the power of hate. We saw that in the way Canadians stood in solidarity with this very recent Quebec incident. You begin realizing that the impact that each individual can have is great.
Q: Shima, when you see protests south of the border and some protests here, when you hear the vigils, the fact Canadians come out and confess it hurts them too when these things happen, does it make a difference?
A: For sure. I totally believe that everything happens for a reason and I think I'm always a positive person. And from a positive perspective, I will tell you honestly it will open doors for more communication, for more understanding, for more education.
It's a good opportunity for us to tell the world that we love you. Muslims love everybody. We are opening our hearts and our arms to hug you. Please, come to our mosques, spend a day with us, come to our homes, spend a day with us, and you will find us normal people.
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener