Ottawa

After New Zealand massacre, Ottawa Muslims weigh increasing security at mosques

One week after the New Zealand mass shooting during Jumaa'ah, Ottawa's Muslim community is debating whether increased security measures are needed here.

Worshippers at the Ahmadiyya Mosque are on alert

People gather at the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood for prayers. One week after 50 people were killed in a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques, Muslims in Ottawa are weighing the pros and cons of increasing security.

One week after a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques, Ottawa's Muslim community is weighing if more security measures are needed here.

Members of the Ahmadiyya Mosque gathered in a Sandy Hill Community Centre for Friday prayers. The noon hour Jumaa'ah attracts about two dozen people, mostly professionals who work in downtown Ottawa.

One week after the New Zealand mass shooting, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community gathered at Sandy Hill Community Centre for Friday prayers. 1:23

Their worship space is easily accessible through glass doors that open onto a parking lot on Somerset Street. Imam Luqman Ahmed opened his Friday sermon with words of comfort for worshippers.

He also spoke about the need for political leaders to combat white supremacy and the importance for Muslims not to withdraw out of fear — but to build bridges of understanding.

Imam Luqman Ahmed opened his Friday sermon with words of comfort for worshippers. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

Imam Luqman Ahmed, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

"I believe if people have a better understanding of Muslims, if they have a better understanding of Islam, I think such incidents would go down, where Muslims are targeted by their faith," said Ahmed. 

Ahmed pointed out that hundreds of people across Canada have signed up for the 'Visit a Mosque" campaign, which was launched following the mass shooting in Christchurch.

He also urged authorities to implement programs to prevent Canadians from being radicalized by extremist groups.

"To tackle hate that comes in the shape of white supremacy for example, the government and the law-enforcing institutions should have programs specially catered toward this kind of extremism." Ahmed said.

"Just like we had programs that targeted Islamic extremism in the past."

Mamoon Malik often stands guard at the doors during Friday prayers. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

Mamoon Malik, retired Canadian Forces combat engineer

Mamoon Malik arrived at Friday prayers ready to stand guard at the doors. Across Ottawa, scenes of volunteers standing watch outside mosques for suspicious activity have been routine since the 2017 Quebec mosque shooting.

"In this day and age, you need some caution," said the retired soldier, who supports the idea that worshippers should practice active shooter drills inside the mosques.

However, Malik does worry that too much focus on security fosters fear that changes the way Canadians live.

"You can't be defeated [by hate]. You can't start walking down the street armed. You can't have armed guards," he said.

"You can't lose your routine that you have every day."

Saib Ahmed regularly attends Friday prayers at the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Sandy Hill. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

Saib Ahmed, public servant

Saib Ahmed, who works at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said he attended Friday prayers with a thankful heart after watching New Zealanders mark the one-week anniversary of the massacre through a televised Jumaa'ah service. 

"Media — they've shone a beautiful light from a really tragic situation. They've brought out all the best of humanity," Ahmed said.

"I mean, [before the shooting] I only followed New Zealand's rugby and cricket team, but this is the first time I've known about their great people and their leaders."

Ahmed said he was moved when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quoted the prophet's sayings from the podium.

"Hopefully people will learn from this and their eyes will open up. Those who don't know, and [who are] not knowledgeable enough about Islam ... hopefully they'll learn from this and say they're not bad people."