'We belong to God, and to him we return,' Nenshi says as Calgary Muslims react to Quebec City mosque shooting

Naheed Nenshi, offered a prayer for the victims of a shooting at a Quebec City mosque that killed six people, as members of Calgary's Muslim community joined a chorus of voices across Canada in condemning the attack.

Vigil planned Monday night at Calgary City Hall after 6 worshippers killed in Quebec

A woman holds a sign at a vigil that drew hundreds to Calgary's city hall in support of those affected by a shooting at a Quebec City mosque. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Many holding candles, others holding signs, hundreds gathered at Calgary's city hall Monday evening as a show of solidarity, support and remembrance of the victims of a shooting at a Quebec City mosque that killed six people and injured 19, five of those critically.

The six died in an attack during evening prayers at the Islamic cultural centre of Quebec on Sunday night. Police have one man in custody in connection with the attack, which Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard called a "murderous act directed at a specific community."

"I was horrified. I was just sad, and I wanted to come here and show support," said Sarah Stelfox, one of about 600 who attended the vigil.

"I was here for the Women's March just about a week ago and I thought, 'I want to be here for this,' I want this community to know everyone supports them."

The event was organized by the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation and was one of several held across the country, including a gathering at the Legislature in Edmonton that also drew a large crowd. 

Calgarian Nauman Hasan said Canada should respond to the Quebec City mosque shooting "with love and only love." (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Calgarian Nauman Hasan also felt it was important to be at Monday's vigil.

"We as Canadians should respond to this with love and only love," he said. "It is against our values, and we should only respond with love and come back as one nation, with unity."

Hasan said he feels safe in Calgary but worries that could change.

"I haven't seen any hate toward me but once you see things like this in the news, it could increase the sense of fear in the Muslim community," he said.

There were also prayers for the shooting victims at the Islamic Centre of South Calgary.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi offers prayer

Canada's first Muslim mayor, Naheed Nenshi, offered a prayer for the victims of the shooting.

Nenshi, who became Canada's first Muslim mayor when first elected in 2010, spoke at the University of Calgary on Monday evening.

"My heart doesn't break today because I am Muslim, my heart breaks because I am human," he said.

"It's really easy today to feel that the world is dark. It's easy to feel like the world is broken and we're helpless to fix it. But we're not helpless. Every single one of us has the chance to heal the world. It starts in our own communities, it starts in our own hearts and in our own hands."  

He earlier tweeted: "When Muslims hear of a death, we say Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un — We belong to God, and to him we return — I say for Quebec tonight."

He also tweeted in French that he is very fond of Quebec City, Calgary's sister city, having spent a summer in Laval and that he was thinking of the victims, their families and all Quebecers.

The lights on the Calgary Tower were darkened on Monday night, while lights on other downtown public spaces were turned blue, white and gold as a show of solidarity with Quebec City. 

Calgary Muslims 'did not think it could happen in Canada' 

Members of the city's Muslim community are upset and sad, said Junaid Mahoon, president of the Islamic Centre of South Calgary.

"They did not think it could happen in Canada," he said.

Leaders at the centre met with Calgary police and RCMP officers Monday morning to discuss security in the wake of the attack.

Junaid Mahoon, president of the Islamic Centre of South Calgary, says members of the Muslim community will still come together to pray in the wake of a deadly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

But Mahoon vowed the community would not hide its faith.

"It won't stop us from going for prayers and it won't stop us from coming together as a community and as part of [the] larger Calgary community," he said.

Calgary police said they have stepped up patrols around places of worship as a precautionary measure and to ease concerns. 

"At this point there is nothing to indicate that there are any specific threats in Calgary," said acting deputy chief Cliff O'Brien, adding there is always concern around the possibility of a copycat attack. 

Anisa Jama, who left Somalia for Canada two decades ago, said she's confident the country will come together.

"One big nation that helps each other — that's how Canada is," she said.

The Muslim Council of Calgary also denounced the shooting, saying in a press release that its members send their prayers and condolences to the victims and their families.

"Muslim Council of Calgary condemns all violence directed towards innocent human beings, irrespective of race, gender, religion, culture or ethnicity," the group said.

Interfaith solidarity

The Calgary Interfaith Council (CIC) and the Jewish-Muslim Council (JMC) also issued a joint statement Monday.

"We deplore the violent attack against the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec and mourn the loss of innocent lives," read the statement attributed to CIC co-chair Murray Nicholson, JMC co-chair Imam Syed Soharwardy, and Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, co-chair of CIC and JMC.

"When such brutal and hateful acts threaten to envelop us in darkness, we stand with the Muslim community throughout Canada to proclaim our commitment to promoting religious freedom and respect for diversity," it said.

"An attack against any house of worship is a threat to all Canadians who seek safety in our homes, religious institutions, and in the public sphere."

With files from Dave Gilson