Courage and mourning: hundreds gather at Hamilton mosque for solidarity vigil
Religious leaders, politicians call on public to help stop hatred
The doors to Hamilton Mountain Mosque were opened wide Monday, inviting hundreds to share in the grief that followed deadly attacks on two mosques in New Zealand — and to promote a message of peace.
Visitors poured in, drawn by a desire to surround their fellow Hamiltonians with support.
Imam Sayed Masood Tora said his message during the vigil shared a theme with what he preached after Friday's deadly attacks in Christchurch — that fear is not the answer.
"We will get through this with patience and perseverance," he said, calling for tolerance and adding the doors to the mosque will never be barred and metal detectors won't be installed.
Instead, they'll stay open and ready to welcome anyone who enters.
"What we saw today here, having our friends and community members from all walks of life, it gives us courage," he said as the crowd filed out following the hours-long memorial.
That sense of strong faith and a desire to carry on was evident throughout the vigil, as people took time to complete their evening prayers and a woman even officially embraced Islam, saying she chose the vigil to make her commitment in order to show the killings shouldn't scare people away from the religion.
Politicians also took to the podium, calling for and end to hate.
Coun. Terry Whitehead spoke on behalf of Mayor Fred Eisenberger, saying Hamilton will continue fighting the ignorance that fuels acts of hatred.
He also said each of the victims left behind a legacy of love.
"These aren't statistics, brothers and sisters, these are people and we need to remember the cost."
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath also shared her sympathy, saying everyone has a right to worship without fear.
The Hamilton Centre MPP described the alleged killer as a "coward" who was "armed with hatred" as well as weapons.
She called for Canadians to reject Islamophobia, warning "the same evils that fed an act of terror on the other side of the globe also plague our communities right here in Ontario."
Religious leaders from the Jewish, Sikh and United Church spoke during the vigil, sharing their weariness of repeated, deadly attacks targeting houses of worship.
Hamilton police were stationed outside the mosque during the vigil. Inside, deputy police chief Frank Bergern let people know police are there to help them.
After the meeting, he pulled the imam aside and to make sure he felt safe and to offer his phone number in case he needs anything in the days to come.
Several speakers, including former councillor and current director of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, Matthew Green, spoke out against white supremacy and called for everyone to play an active role in exposing hatred.
"The responsibility of dismantling Islamophobia is not to be left to the Muslim community, the responsibility for dismantling white supremacy should not be left to racialized communities," he said. "Hamilton is a city for all."
Mixed among the remembrance was plenty of pain.
Javid Mirza, head of the Muslim Association of Hamilton, said people need to stop demonizing each other, especially online.
"I'm tired of going to a synagogue or a mosque or a temple because some catastrophe has happened," he said. "If it's wrong stand up, because justice is for each and every one of us."