Winnipeg Muslims condemn soldier attacks, fear backlash
Members of Winnipeg's Muslim community prayed on Friday as they condemned two separate attacks, both linked to Islamic extremism, that killed two Canadian soldiers this week.
Some who prayed at the Grand Mosque on Waverley Street on Friday afternoon said they're upset that the two men accused of carrying out the attacks claimed to have ties to Islam.
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"Even though we are a peaceful religion, there are always these few people that make us seem like we're worse than we are," said 18-year-old Hyrmete Hyseni.
Hyseni and others at the mosque said they fear this week's attacks, fuelled by self-radicalization, could lead to a backlash against Muslims.
Idris Elbakri, president of the Manitoba Islamic Association, said the community wants to make sure all Muslims are not labelled as extremists.
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"This is a test of Canadian values. If the very values are compromised by us, ourselves, then those who attacked us have won," he said Thursday.
A mosque in Cold Lake, Alta., was vandalized on Thursday night with the words "Go Home" and "Canada" spray-painted on the front face of the building and the windows smashed.
Local residents have since come forward to help repair the mosque and let members know the vandals don't speak for the majority of people in town.
Workshops, handbook aim to debunk radical ideologies
In Winnipeg, the Manitoba Islamic Association held a workshop last week to debunk the ideology behind radical Islamic groups. It hopes to organize another one in the future.
"Islam does not call for killing of civilians, doesn't call for beheadings, it does not call for for this sort of merciless violence against people who are aid workers or journalists or what have you," Elbakri said.
Elbakri said the actions of misguided converts to Islam does not represent the religion as a whole — a point echoed by Shahina Siddiqui of the Islamic Social Services Association.
"I don't see them as Muslims," she said. "I see them as converting to a terrorist ideology."
Siddiqui's organization recently published a handbook aimed at stopping young Canadians from being recruited by extremist groups.
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"Our intention was to get to our youths who are just being manipulated or influenced by messaging that is totally outside our frame of reference," she said.
In the meantime, Elbakri said Muslims need to lead by example, showing everyone they are good Canadians and great community members.
"[We must] just keep doing what we do — raising family, going to work, and getting to know our neighbours and keep Canada the great country that it is," he said.
Muslims at the Grand Mosque said they welcome anyone with questions about Islam to visit the mosque and talk to people there.