Toronto

Owners of Syrian restaurant Soufi's announce plan to re-open after hate mail and death threats

The Toronto family forced to shut down their Syrian restaurant after a series of hate messages and death threats say they’re now working toward re-opening the business.

Toronto police say they will likely launch an investigation into the threats

'The magnitude of hate we are facing is overwhelming,' said the Al-Soufi family in a statement. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The Toronto family forced to shut down their Syrian restaurant after a series of hate messages and death threats say they're now working toward re-opening the business.

Husam Al-Soufi made the announcement outside Soufi's, his downtown restaurant, alongside Mohamad Fakih, the Toronto businessman and founder of Paramount Fine Foods.

"We're going to work together to re-open the door of this business," Fakih said, promising further details at a news conference scheduled for Thursday.

"This family should not lose their profitable, thriving business because of intimidation and hate."

The Al-Soufi family says the threats began after news got out that their eldest son protested outside a September event in Hamilton featuring People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.

The event became the source of controversy when a crowd of people protesting Bernier's presence was seen physically blocking and verbally abusing an elderly woman trying to enter the venue.

"They were in a lineup … and treating me like I'm a criminal," she said, during an earlier interview.

Husam Al-Soufi employs 12 people at his downtown restaurant Soufi's. (CBC)

Family says son not directly involved

The family said in its statement that their son, Alaa, regrets what happened.

"That said, he did not in any way verbally or physically assault the elderly woman and has nonetheless offered to apologize personally for not doing more," the statement said. 

"Alaa has been an activist and humanitarian for the past nine years, fighting for the rights of oppressed communities in Canada and worldwide. We support and love our son for standing up against oppression."

David Turkoski, the son of the woman in the incident, said he remains upset that his mother was intimidated and verbally abused by protesters. He alleges that Alaa was involved, and that the Al-Soufi family has not reached out to apologize.

However, he was also saddened when he learned about the threats and closure of the restaurant.

David Turkoski, whose mother was blocked from entering a Maxime Bernier event, said the Al-Soufi family should not be punished over the incident. (CBC)

"It broke my heart when I heard about it," David Turkoski told CBC Toronto, adding that a family should not be punished for the actions of one person.

"As far as the gentleman who owns the restaurant, anyone who would advocate any harm to him is not on my side," he added.

Police likely to investigate threats

Husam Al-Soufi said his family has received numerous positive messages since news about the hate mail and threats emerged.

"I just want to thank all Canadians for their supportive messages and warm comments," Al-Soufi said. "We're just hoping to spread the love, despite all that happened."

Earlier Wednesday, the Al-Soufi family filed a complaint with Toronto police, who confirmed they were investigating the incident.

Police had previously said the Al-Soufi family had called to lodge concerns last week about receiving hate messages, but they were not able to connect with officers.

Const. Victor Kwong said Wednesday that investigators were meeting with the family to gather details and likely launch a probe into the situation.

With files from The Canadian Press

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