Nova Scotia

'You belong here': Halifax shows its support at Bedford Islamic centre

Sympathy and safety was on the minds of the more than 200 people who met Wednesday at Al Rasoul Islamic Society in Bedford

'I think everyone still is going by the stereotype that we're terrorists,' 11-year-old says

Saba Soleymanzadeh, 11, says it's heartbreaking to be labelled as a terrorist "cause I'm a normal kid." (CBC)

Sympathy and safety was on the minds of the more than 200 people who met Wednesday at Al Rasoul Islamic Society in Bedford 

The gathering was prompted by an outpouring of support from non-Muslim community members after Sunday's shooting at a Quebec City mosque, society vice-president Hossein Mousavi said.

People left cards attached to bouquets of flowers left at the mosque's doorway that read "We are with you" and "For Quebec. You belong here."

At the same time, members of the Islamic Society were contacting him with safety concerns.

Halifax Police Constable Heather Moran speaks about the department's participation in keeping members safe at the Al Rasoul Islamic Society. (CBC)

One girl said she feels singled out as a result of recent events.

"I think everyone still is going by the stereotype that we're terrorists," said Saba Soleymanzadeh, 11. "That just breaks my heart, 'cause I'm a normal kid."

"We don't feel secure here," added Ulfat Zehra. The Quebec City shooting made her feel unsafe at the Bedford mosque, she said.

Halifax police have increased patrols near the mosque and are spending more time with the Muslim community, deputy police chief Bill Moore said.

A condolence note at Al-Rasoul Islamic Society in Bedford. (Submitted by Ali Alhajji)

He says the department is offering to help the mosque with emergency plans and to do a security assessment of the grounds, for improvements such as lighting and sight lines. 

Mousavi said the society is considering placing better cameras around the outside of the building.  They're also considering offering police training for security guards, currently volunteers, to detect and respond to suspicious activity. 

Deputy Chief Bill Moore, of Halifax Regional Police, talks about security measures at the Bedford mosque. (CBC)

"The support we've received showcased how much this country rejects such behaviour," said Hassan Rashed, a volunteer who spends about five hours a day at the Islamic Society. 

"Even with the news, I still feel at peace and I still feel safe," he said, pointing to the efforts of non-Muslims reaching out in support.

"They left their names, numbers, words of encouragement, flowers," he said.