'It's a great sadness': Windsor Muslim community plans fundraiser for Rohingya refugees

The Windsor Islamic Centre is planning a fundraiser following evening prayers at the Central Mosque on October 7 to support the Rohingya, members of a long-persecuted religious minority in Myanmar.

'Hopefully the world will listen and treat them as human beings'

A Rohingya Muslim man stands by the entrance to his tent at Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. More than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in the past year, most of them in the last three weeks, after security forces and allied mobs retaliated to a series of attacks by Muslim militants last month by burning down thousands of Rohingya homes in the predominantly Buddhist nation. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

Members of Windsor's Muslim community have watched for weeks as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have fled from their homes and hundreds have been killed.

As the country's leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains largely silent on what some in the international community are describing as ethnic cleansing, Windsor Imam Abdullah Hammoud said it's time to act.

He is also calling on Canada to take back her honourary citizenship. She was awarded honourary Canadian status in 2012 for her work on human rights.

"They should strip it and take it back from her," he said. "Innocent people are being slaughtered or burned or being kicked out from their own homeland. As a community I think it's our responsibility to do something."

Imam Abdullah Hammoud said the international community needs to do more to help Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. (Melissa Nakhavoly)

An estimated 421,000 Rohingya, who are members of a long-persecuted religious minority and have been denied citizenship, have fled to Bangladesh in less than a month.

The Windsor Islamic Centre is planning a fundraiser following evening prayers at the Central Mosque on October 7. 

Chairperson Maher El Masri said the community is motivated by "heartbreaking" images of the crisis.

"It's very sad the flood of refugees in total scenes of misery and desperation," he explained. "The one thing we can actually do to make a difference is provide them with shelter and food while they're going through this agony and pain."

Rohingya refugee children pictured in a camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

Hammoud said the plight of Muslims in Myanmar seems to be unknown to many in North America, but students at the Al-Hijra Academy in Windsor have been reading up on it.

"It doesn't matter what religion they are, innocent people shouldn't be dying at all," said Grade 8 student Sara Naushad.

The 13-year-old said one of her teachers has family in Myanmar and added the students are eager to donate and help.

Sara Naushad said students in Windsor want to help Muslims in Myanmar. (Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

Although the crisis is thousands of kilometres away, Hammoud said he's hopeful efforts in Windsor will make a difference.

"It's a great sadness in our hearts as Muslims," he said. "Hopefully the world will listen and treat them as human beings."

with files from the Associated Press