'I was horrified': Anger, sadness at Ottawa mosque over fatal shootings

Horror at what happened. Anger at the fact it did. Appreciation for the words of support. Those were just a few of the sentiments expressed in Ottawa following Friday's deadly mosque shootings in New Zealand.

'We have serious problems when we see people killed in sanctuary places'

People speak with Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna outside the city's main mosque on Friday, March 15, 2019. McKenna was among those who gathered at the mosque to offer support and condolences following fatal shootings at two mosques in New Zealand earlier in the day. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Horror at what happened. Anger at the fact it did. Appreciation for the words of support.

Those were some of the sentiments expressed at a gathering held Friday at Ottawa's main mosque, not long after 49 people died and 42 others were injured in attacks at two New Zealand mosques filled with worshippers.

In response, police in both Ottawa and Gatineau posted officers Friday at local mosques.

Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said they were taking the step to offer support to the Muslim community, and not because they had evidence anyone in Ottawa was connected to the shootings.

Under that increased police presence, people gathered Friday afternoon at the Ottawa Muslim Association to offer words of compassion and solidarity.

Here's what some people at that gathering had to say. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Shahad Khalladi

My first reaction was that I was horrified by the number of people who lost their lives. And my second reaction is today is Friday for a lot of the Western countries, and that meant a lot of Muslims across the country are going to go to their Friday prayers with this being first on their mind.

I definitely think there is a sentiment of sadness and mourning in all of the prayers. Imams across the country are going to be commenting on the events. There is definitely going to be a sense of support in the air by community members.

Mosques are going to be spaces where people are going to come together, where members of the community come for warmth and some sort of explanation or rationale over what's happened.

Abid Bhatti

It helps us that we are not alone, that we are with the people of Canada.

All the people and ministers came in [to the mosque], and we feel safe that someone is behind us, supporting us.

So we really appreciate when the media come in. The police chief, Mr. Bordeleau, came in and so we really appreciate everyone.

Martin Lee, a New Zealander living in Ottawa

It's hard to express how shocking this is.

New Zealand is the country where the police don't carry guns, and it's rested on its distance from the world for safety. It's the country that disappears off maps. We didn't expect this to happen in New Zealand. 

That being said and done, it happens everywhere. Islamophobia and racism are spreading. It's no stranger to New Zealand and it's no stranger to Canada — its no stranger anywhere. It reveals how global this phenomena is and how no one is truly safe from it.

There's a word, a phrase in Maori, the native language of New Zealand. I'm not Maori, but we use it in New Zealand. 'Kia kaha' —  it means to stand strong, effectively it expresses solidarity, it expresses that I see the person for who they are.

Monia Mazigh

We shouldn't forget that there were kids who were killed today. 

This is tragic, this is real tragic, to see kids killed in a place of worship. We cannot keep quiet about it anymore.

I know that some mosques already are using fobs to enter, passwords sometimes. It is ridiculous in a way because these are sanctuaries, this is where people really come to hide or to seek for peace.

Today we have serious problems when we see people killed in sanctuary places.

With files from Stu Mills. Photos by Stu Mills and Jean Delisle