Edmonton police investigating after group known to police visits Al Rashid Mosque
'We denounce any kind of groups that trespass and surveil our property,’ mosque spokesperson says
The Edmonton Police Service has confirmed its hate crimes unit was consulted after a complaint from Al Rashid Mosque that a pair of "suspicious men" walked into the mosque just before noon on Friday.
"Two suspicious men walked into the mosque and looked like they were scouting the place. One of them was wearing a tuque that had the word 'infidel' on it in Arabic," Noor Al-Henedy, communications director for the mosque, said Saturday.
Al-Henedy said that when asked by the mosque's executive director if they needed help, the men didn't indicate a reason for entering and promptly left.
After the men left, they joined at least two other men outside where "they got into a confrontation with members of the community and the [group] streamed it live on Facebook," Al-Henedy said.
Al Rashid is located at 132nd Avenue and 113th Street, and was the first mosque in Canada, built 80 years ago.
Al-Henedy said Fridays are their busiest day of the week, with people arriving for private prayer around the same time the men entered the mosque.
"We denounce any kind of groups that trespass and surveil our property or institution without any kind of invitation," Al-Henedy said, adding it would have been simple to approach anyone in the mosque with questions.
"We are an organization that is very open to interfaith dialogue."
Edmonton Police Service spokesperson Cheryl Voordenhout said no arrests were made.
"Northwest division responded to a trouble with persons complaint at that location just before noon yesterday," Voordenhout said in an emailed statement.
"The Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit was consulted in the investigation. Hate Crimes unit is aware of this group and is monitoring their activities."
Voordenhout said she couldn't confirm which group police are referring to because "these groups change names and alliances frequently, so there's no consistent name they go by."
Premier Rachel Notley said in a tweet that hearing a hate group is "openly harassing and terrorizing people in Edmonton with racist and homophobic attacks and posters is beyond upsetting."
1/2<br>Hearing that a hate group is openly harassing & terrorizing people in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yeg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yeg</a> with racist & homophobic attacks & posters is beyond upsetting.<br>This is not who we are.<br>There is no room for this kind of hate in the strong, open and optimistic Alberta that inspires me & is our home.—@RachelNotley
Sen. Paula Simons voiced her support for Al Rashid mosque on Twitter.
Al Rashid is the oldest mosque in Canada. It’s been part of our Edmonton community since 1938. During the Ft. McMurray wildfire, the mosque opened its doors & welcomed evacuees of all faiths with delicious food & a safe place to sleep. My <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yeg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yeg</a> includes Al Rashid. <a href="https://t.co/yiRGROIJqL">https://t.co/yiRGROIJqL</a>—@Paulatics
Al-Henedy said the mosque's priority is to ensure everyone who comes to pray in the mosque is safe.
"We are working with the local authorities to make sure in the future if there's anything else we can do, it will be implemented," she said.