From hatred to handshakes: Red Deer Muslims want to meet mosque vandal
Jawed Iqbal offers to have tea with whoever left hateful message scrawled in snow
Just before prayers began at the Red Deer Islamic Center on Sunday, a man was caught on a surveillance camera leaving a hateful message in the snow on the steps outside the building.
As RCMP search for the culprit to lay charges, members of the mosque are taking a different approach.
They'd like to sit down and talk to whoever did it over a cup of tea.
"We would like to invite him for tea and just understand why he left that message and why he has so much anger and resentment toward Muslims," spokesman Jawed Iqbal told The Calgary Eyeopener.
- Search on for suspect in hate crime at Red Deer Islamic centre
- Students denounce posters questioning Holocaust at University of Calgary
Iqbal said the message wasn't a surprise to the mosque as they have received hateful notes and emails in the past. They have even encountered a few upset individuals.
"We've tried to build bridges in the community and we believe strongly the best way to fight hatred and animosity toward the Muslim community is not by more hatred or labelling people xenophobes or Islamophobes, it's just to have a conversation if they're willing to."
The best way to fight hatred and animosity toward the Muslim community is not by more hatred- Jawed Iqbal
Police are reviewing the surveillance footage, Const. Derek Turner told CBC News, and it may constitute a hate crime.
Iqbal said it appeared the man was aware he was being filmed.
"He made an obscene gesture at the camera and proceeded to write his message and even initialed it," he said.
Anger and resentment toward Muslims is something Iqbal said he sees as a "growing trend across Canada."
"Even though we have a very supportive community in Red Deer, there are individuals who are not happy there are a growing number of Muslims," he said.
"And they do make their displeasure known from time to time, so we just want to understand why there is so much hatred."
Things like the recent U.S. travel ban, barring entry by people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, exacerbates fears and can fan ignorance adding to overall misunderstanding, said Iqbal.
"I do see a trend," he said. "I think what's happening around the world, south of the border, as well as what's happening in Canada with this Motion 103 being discussed in Parliament. People have this perception their rights or freedoms to express themselves will be taken away and there is this wrong idea Muslims are behind this and Muslims want to shut down any criticism of their religion, that's not true."
Anger a natural reaction
Tabled by an Ontario MP last fall, Motion 103 calls on the federal government to condemn Islamophobia and study the issue, including tracking the number of hate crimes across the country to provide context.
Anger is a natural reaction to receiving hateful messages, said Iqbal.
"But that doesn't help," he said. "We know the best way to fight hatred is through compassion and dialogue and understanding. We're hoping people will reciprocate this gesture and come talk to us."
Anyone with information is asked to call Red Deer RCMP at 403-343-5575 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
- MORE ALBERTA NEWS | 'How is this power going to be used?': Immigration lawyer says Bill C-23 needs rewrite
- MORE ALBERTA NEWS | Rising oil production will push Alberta economy to fastest growth in country in 2017: Conference Board
With files from The Calgary Eyeopener