Muslims in Halifax lament 'inhumanity,' wonder about their safety

Six men died and 19 people were wounded when a man opened fire on them while they were praying in a Quebec mosque.

'My experience with Islamophobia here as a Haligonian, as a Nova Scotian, has been very real'

Police met with members of Halifax's Muslim community Monday to ensure them the police force is being vigilant and to share in their grief. (CBC)

Muslim leaders in Halifax are expressing sadness, angst and worry over the shooting Sunday night at a Quebec mosque that left six people dead.

"This is the worst kind of punishment where you're going to pray and be gunned down while praying," Imam Zia Khan, the director of the Centre for Islamic Development, told CBC's Mainstreet Monday.

"It speaks to our inhumanity and we're becoming more uncivilized in our approach, in our thinking as a people, due to maybe the influx of media."

Prayer service inside a Halifax mosque to mourne the victims of the Quebec shooting. (CBC)

The overwhelming sympathy and condemnation by many Canadians to the mass shooting restored the humane, accepting character of Canada, Imam Jamal Badawi, a member of the Council of Nova Scotia Imams, told Mainstreet.

"We need to have [a] wall, not an expensive wall – the wall of tolerance, the wall of understanding, the wall of mutual respect and the wall of equality," Badawi said.

Student worried for safety

Masuma Khan, president of Dalhousie University's Muslim Student Association, said she's reminded every day that she's Muslim. 

"I would like to think that I'm safe here, but to be honest my experience with Islamophobia here as a Haligonian, as a Nova Scotian, has been very real," Khan told CBC Mainstreet.

Muslims in Halifax are shocked by a shooting Sunday night at a Quebec City mosque that left six dead. (Radio-Canada)

Khan says she's been told to "go back home" and called a terrorist because she wears a hijab.

Campus vigil

"These are the realities of Muslim women and Muslim men in this country and people don't like to address it," she said.

She organized a vigil on campus Monday. She said over 200 people attended. Another vigil is taking place tonight in Halifax at Grand Parade, and there are others scattered in smaller communities across the province.  

Hundreds of people attend vigil in Halifax for victims of the Quebec mosque shooting. (CBC)

"We were brought together by hate but what's going to come out of a vigil like this is love."

Jamal Badawi, a retired professor who taught Islamic studies at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, said he was shocked by the shooting "because Canada is not like some other countries."

"In the meantime, we should never respond to evil with evil or violence with violence," he said.

'Terrible news'

Ali Duale, a Halifax man who arrived to Canada in 1997 as a refugee from Somalia, said he expects the issue of safety will be discussed at the mosque he attends.

But he said he believes he and his family are safe in Canada.

"I have crossed oceans, the Indian Ocean … the Atlantic Ocean to run away from hate and harm," he told CBC's Information Morning.

"I don't know how far I can go. I really believe I am here because I am supposed to be."

Nova Scotia politicians were quick to respond to the shootings.

Flags at Halifax City Hall were lowered to half-mast and Mayor Mike Savage tweeted" 

"How do we comprehend the terrible news in Quebec of death and injury at a place of worship. We stand with the victims and their families."

In a statement Monday, Premier Stephen McNeil said: "On behalf of Nova Scotians, I want to extend deepest sympathies to the Muslim community of Quebec City and everyone touched by this senseless act of violence."