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At Hamilton mosque hit by hate crime, Horwath pledges to fight intolerance

The doorway of the mosque has been repaired, but the intangible effects of the attack linger, an imam told Andrea Horwath on Friday.

The doorway has been repaired, but the intangible effects of the attack linger

Imam Ayman Al-Taher talked with Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath a week after a Hamilton mosque was attacked by an arsonist. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

A week after an arson at the Hamilton Ibrahim Jame Mosque, Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath visited the mosque on King Street East to assure the congregation she is working to decrease Islamophobia in Ontario.

Horwath, the leader of the Ontario NDP, announced a private member's bill will be introduced next week that would designate October as Islamic heritage month in the province.

We don't want these isolated incidents, even though they do exist, to ruin the bigger picture.- Imam Ayman Al-Taher

Such an action would help to "send out the signal that Ontario is a place for everyone," she said, and "to raise awareness, to celebrate the positive contributions of the Muslim community in Ontario."

In a meeting with Imam Ayman Al-Taher and members of the mosque before Friday afternoon prayers, Horwath heard some of the lasting effects of the attack, which police are calling a hate crime. 

Andrea Horwath met with members of the Ibrahim Jame mosque, which has been repaired following last week's arson attack. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The fire was set a fire at the doorway of the mosque around 11 p.m. on September 14. The doorway has been repaired, but the intangible effects of the attack linger.

"There has been some fear and anxiety among the worshipers who come," Al-Taher said.

He said some have even proposed hiring security while the congregants worship and do prayers.

"Those kinds of emotions and those kinds of feelings take an awful long time to resolve, to heal," Horwath said.

"And then when you have some of the environment that continues to exist in Ontario and Canada around the Muslim community, that wound continues to be worsened, and that's something that is worrisome."

Andrea Horwath announced her NDP party will call for Ontario to designate October as Islamic heritage month. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Al-Taher said the fears are even worse among newcomers to Canada who've come as refugees from Syria, who may still carry fears for safety and emotional and mental burdens from their distress at home.

But he said he's been encouraging his congregation to remain optimistic, and to remember that the "broader picture" in Canada is one of welcome and positivity. 

"We don't want these isolated incidents, even though they do exist, to ruin the bigger picture," he said.

Imam Ayman Al-Taher showed Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath the doorway where the fire was set, which has now been repaired. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

"I think we are a welcoming community," Horwath said, of Hamilton.

"I mean, I think there are certainly incidents like this that occur from time to time that worry us all, but I think the way the community has responded shows in fact that this incident is not who Hamilton is, this incident does not define Hamilton."

Al-Taher asked Horwath to consider empowering religious institutions to deliver social services to people living nearby.

Horwath acknowledged the Liberal government's work to set up an anti-racism directorate, which will visit Hamilton for a public meeting on Monday.

Ibrahim Jame Mosque on King Street East near Sanford Avenue was hit by an arsonist last week. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

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