North

Worker at Whitehorse mosque overwhelmed by northerners response to New Zealand attacks

'We need to get together in this difficult time, we need to show solidarity among each other,' said Sami Kadri at Whitehorse's mosque.

'We need to get together in this difficult time, we need to show solidarity among each other'

Flowers and messages of condolence were left outside Whitehorse's mosque on Friday. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Sami Kadri, who works with Whitehorse's mosque, says he was overwhelmed on Friday to find bouquets of flowers and messages of condolence at the mosque's doors.

"It almost made me go in tears. It's amazing. It's a small act of kindness, but it's huge in our hearts," he said.

The mosque was busy that day, as the faithful gathered for Friday prayers. Many were still processing the news from New Zealand, where 49 people were killed and dozens more injured in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch.

"It was Islamophobia. That's what it is," Kadri said. "These acts are coward acts."

"We need to get together in this difficult time, we need to show solidarity among each other," he said.

'We are thankful for our community in Whitehorse, for this kind support,' said Sami Kadri, who lead prayers at the Whitehorse mosque on Friday. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Kadri is relatively new to Whitehorse — he just moved to Yukon two months ago. He says he wasn't sure at first if he wanted to stay, but he's been won over by the community. He's been especially touched by the response to the New Zealand shootings.

Local politicians came to Friday prayers to show their support, and offer condolences.

"I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that I know that our city, our territory, our country, is much, much stronger because you're here," Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis told those gathered.

"And you're really supporting us in many, many ways. And I'm sorry. I'm so sorry this has happened."

'Our city, our territory, our country, is much, much stronger because you're here,' Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis told those gathered for prayers at the Whitehorse mosque on Friday. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

MLA Richard Mostyn also spoke on behalf of the Yukon government, condemning the shootings, and MP Larry Bagnell spoke about diversity as a source of strength.

"I hope you're not fearful, because we're all with you," Bagnell said.

Kadri said it meant a lot to hear from the politicians.

"When we are in difficulties, when we're in this huge disaster that happened, the right step is to have the leadership step [up] and share about the common values," Kadri said.

"We are thankful for our community in Whitehorse, for this kind support. This is amazing to have a community like this."

'We have diversity — it is staying'

News of the New Zealand attacks reverberated across the North. Nazim Awan, chair of the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife, described the shootings as inhuman.

"It is an example of extreme Islamophobia, unacceptance, intolerance, and total ignorance," Awan said.

"They are extremely motivated to kill anybody who doesn't look like them, who are different faith. This is not a human society."

He said Muslims now live under a "blanket of fear" — but he's also reassured by his own experiences of acceptance and support. 

'These few terrorists, they cannot defeat this society,' said Nazim Awan, chair of the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

"Humanity is together in this. We have diversity — it is staying on this planet. We will believe in living together, living in peace with our differences, with our different faiths," he said.

"These few terrorists, they cannot defeat this society." 

Syed Asif Ali, president of the Islamic Society of Nunavut, echoes those sentiments. But he said the New Zealand attacks left him deeply shaken.

"I was so disturbed I couldn't sleep. Such a heinous act of violence and terrorism, that I kept waking all night," he said.

He hopes the tragedy will also wake others to the need for solidarity in the face of hate.

"These kind of events can never deter us. We, as a society, we have to be watchful. We have to be more cognizant of the fact such elements do exist, and we should not be ignoring them," he said.

'We have to be more cognizant of the fact such elements do exist, and we should not be ignoring them,' said Syed Asif Ali, president of the Islamic Society of Nunavut. (David Gunn/CBC)

Ali says he's grateful to be in Iqaluit. He remembers how community members there responded to the mosque shooting in Quebec two years ago.

"They came and rallied around the mosque ...  It was a great moment for us, to have that kind of confidence in the community that rallied all together," he said.

"That's the very fabric of our society in Canada. We are very lucky to be here as a community."

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