Hamilton Muslim leaders meet with police, look to increase security after Quebec attack
Rally scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday as messages of solidarity and shock fill social media
Hamilton Muslim leaders are grappling with how to keep their communities safe in the wake of the attack that killed six people during evening prayers at a mosque in Quebec City.
Imam Sayed Tora, leader of the Hamilton Downtown Mosque, said Hamilton Police Deputy Chief Dan Kinsella and Mayor Fred Eisenberger met with community members Monday afternoon. Tora said Kinsella told community members that police would be increasing patrols at the seven local mosques, Islamic Centre and Islamic School of Hamilton.
Local mosques are planning to possibly hire security for the mosques especially during dawn and evening prayers, and when children are present, he said.
The Downtown Mosque announced it would cancel its evening children's classes Monday "as a precautionary measure."
Kinsella was not available for comment after the meeting. Earlier in the day the police service declined to say what steps it was taking to allay community fears, saying only via email it "would do all the necessary proactive as well as related work for the safety and security of our community."
Meanwhile, Halton police announced specific measures taken by the service in Burlington and elsewhere, including "enhanced patrols of places of worship."
Tora said he listened to details about the attack while he took three of his five kids to school Monday.
"After the newscast was over I had a quick chat with them," he said. "They were shocked as they were hearing the details. I just told them that this is something that is horrifying, yet, at the same time we have to remain strong in our faith, in our people, in our country. This is actually time that we need to be pulling our forces together so that we don't allow anyone to break our unity."
His 12-year-old daughter was shocked, he said.
"The only thing that she would say was that she can't believe that this is happening here (in Canada)," he said. "That's exactly the reaction of the members of the community."
Milé Komlen, chair of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, said the event resonates locally in part because of the hate crimes at the Hindu Samaj in 2001, an "open wound that existed for a long time."
"I think these types of incidents resonate with Hamiltonians because there's a long history of attacks on places of worship," he said. "When these things happen it really calls into question who we want to be as Hamiltonians, what kind of community we want to live in."
Rallies to be held Monday
Students and Muslim leaders are staging a rally in support of the local Muslim community Monday, responding both to the U.S.'s ban on refugees from seven Middle East countries and to a tragic shooting during prayers at a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday night.
Eisenberger called for the flags at city hall to be lowered to half-mast and for the flag of Quebec to be raised.
"The City of Hamilton has been a safe haven for newcomers to this country for over 100 years," Eisenberger said in a statement. "We will continue to welcome all those who seek safety and a new life in Canada."
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A vigil in solidarity with the victims of the attack is also planned at Burlington City Hall where there will be a candle-lighting followed by a minute of silence at 6 p.m.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash">#HamOnt</a> stands with Quebec and the victims of the tragedy in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SteFoy?src=hash">#SteFoy</a>. We've lowered the Canadian flag & raised the Quebec flag at City Hall. <a href="https://t.co/e81YR6XPxy">pic.twitter.com/e81YR6XPxy</a>—@cityofhamilton
'Remain extra vigilant, but at the same time not to over-react'
Tora said Muslim leaders have been exchanging messages Sunday night and Monday morning.
"We are basically calling on the members of our congregations to remain extra vigilant, but at the same time not to over-react," he said. "To remain calm and patient."
He said the attack in Quebec takes the safety concerns to a new level than was experienced in the arson last fall.
"We are not talking about just an attempt of you know an attempt to set something on fire," he said. "This is much more serious."
Tora said it's important for the community not to lose hope in the ideals of peace and unity in Canada.
"As much as this is coming as a great shock for all of us, knowing that this horrific terrorist attack (took place) on a peaceful group of worshippers in a mosque," he said, "I think it's important for us to also note that this will not shake our trust first and foremost in God, and then in our very fundamental Canadian values of tolerance, patience, acceptance, co-existence and unity."
Kamran Bhatti, representing the Muslim Association of Hamilton, said the community has a strong relationship with police. He said he would hope to see "more surveillance" and "patrols in our communities making sure and reassuring the community members that our police service is there to support us."
Messages of solidarity
inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives and their loved... <a href="https://t.co/JsiYuP17M8">https://t.co/JsiYuP17M8</a>—@Muslim_Hamilton
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash">#HamOnt</a> Is For Everybody. <a href="https://t.co/pKkxN2LYMi">pic.twitter.com/pKkxN2LYMi</a>—@mattjelly
The mosque attack drew messages of support and solidarity online from Hamilton leaders.
Shootings at a place of worship in Canada deeply shocking. We must resist hatred based on faith. Condolences to the victims' families.—@AndreaHorwath
Fear, Division and Hate Sows discrimination & Violence. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash">#HamOnt</a> stands with our Islamic Brothers and Sisters today & always. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/stefoy?src=hash">#stefoy</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/unity?src=hash">#unity</a>—@FredEisenberger
The attacks at the Cultural Islamic Centre in Quebec generates fear and outrage. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families....—@HamiltonPolice
A mosque in central Hamilton, Ibrahim Jam-E, was set on fire last September in an act police described as a hate crime.
That mosque's imam, Ayman al-Taher, said at the time that some members of the mosque had proposed hiring security while the congregants worship and pray.
In September, al-Taher said he'd been encouraging his congregation to remain optimistic, and to remember that the "broader picture" in Canada is one of welcome and positivity.