Nova Scotia

Trudeau calls Halifax imam at home to offer condolences, comfort

A Nova Scotia imam says his fears of more violence against mosques were eased Friday by a direct call from the prime minister.

Zia Khan says surprise call from prime minister eased his concerns about more violence

Imam Zia Khan, seen in the mosque at the Centre for Islamic Development in Halifax, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called him at home to offer support in the wake of the attack on a mosque in Quebec City. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A Nova Scotia imam says his fears of more violence against mosques were eased Friday by a direct call from the prime minister.

Zia Khan of the Centre for Islamic Development in Halifax told The Canadian Press on Monday he was fearful of more attacks like the one that killed six men in Quebec City.

But Khan says he felt consoled after a surprise call at home Friday morning from Justin Trudeau.

The 49-year-old spiritual leader says he thought it might be a prank until he heard the prime minister's voice and they started a 15-minute conversation.

'We stand all together'

"It actually jolted me a bit," he said. "He said, 'We stand all together, with my heartfelt love and kindness to all of you.'"

"To make that effort to actually talk to someone and give condolences and listen to the plight of people who are feeling anxious at this moment, I ... felt he truly cared," he said.

Throughout the week, a steady series of deliveries of flowers, figs, chocolates and other gifts have arrived at the imam's home and at the centre in downtown Halifax, leading Khan to say he believes the shooting has built bonds rather than divisions among Canadians of different faiths.

The Good Robot Brewing Company next door, which had a dispute with the centre over noise levels at the brew pub in the fall, sent chocolates and flowers.

'Out of this tragedy, goodness'

"We were inundated with love and kindness ... out of this tragedy, goodness had come forward," said Khan.

Imam Zia Khan says he and Trudeau did not talk politics on the call. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The imam says politicians have previously attempted to use his presence for a photo opportunity, but he says he felt Trudeau's call was sincere.

"I've met leaders of different countries and it's a photo opportunity, but he actually had no other intent but to send his condolences," Khan said, adding that it was his own initiative to contact a reporter about the call.

Khan said he voted NDP in the last election, and continues to expect the Liberal government will act on a commitment to amend Bill C-51's anti-terrorism legislation — which contains provisions that Khan believes should be reformed.

Imam didn't push politics

The Liberals have committed to amend the law to ensure all CSIS warrants respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to review appeals by Canadians who have been placed on "no-fly" lists, and to narrow broad definitions of "terrorist propaganda."

"Bill C-51, it's something that [Stephen] Harper tabled and it requires checks and balances because it's scary for civil liberties," said Khan.

However, the imam said he didn't press Trudeau on legislative changes, saying the discussion focused on the prime minister sending condolences to his community in a time of tragedy.

Khan said the Islamic centre has about 1,000 adherents and operates a mosque and a school.

He said Trudeau's words of condolence reminded him of the prophet's statement that "whoever is given his portion of kindness has been given his portion of goodness."