London’s Muslim community responds to attack on Mississauga mosque

Members of the Muslim community in London, Ont., say they are saddened and angered by news of a recent attack on a mosque in Mississauga.

Worshipers at the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Center were attacked Saturday morning by a man who discharged bear spray in what authorities believe was a “hate-motivated incident.”

Peel Regional Police say the man was also brandishing a hatchet when he walked into the mosque. Some members were able to tackle and subdue him, but not before a number of the 20 attendees suffered minor injuries from the bear spray.

The incident happened nearly 10 months after the deadly vehicle attack on a Muslim family in London.

“It was a trigger of all sorts of negative emotions to hear someone coming into a mosque with an ax and equipment to hurt people,” said London Muslim Mosque Imam Aarij Anwer.

Anwer said he used to give the Friday sermon at the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Center years before moving to London, and that the London Muslim Mosque stands with the Centre.

“I’m very grateful it didn’t escalate into anything worse,” he said.

On June 6, 2021, four members of the Afzaal family were killed while they stood on the sidewalk at the intersection of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife, Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna, and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, died. The couple’s nine-year-old son was seriously hurt but survived.

Yumna Afzaal, 15, Madiha Salman, 44, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, left to right, were out for an evening walk when they were run over by a truck in what police say was an attack motivated by anti- Muslim hate. (Submitted by the Afzaal family)

Nathaniel Veltman, 21, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, with associated terrorism charges.

“It’s that ‘oh no, not again’ kind of feeling,” said Nawaz Tahir, chair of London Muslim advocacy group Hikma Public Affairs Council.

“With every incident, there’s a cumulative effect to it, so after Quebec City, after the IMO mosque, and then of course, what happened in London — each instance sort of chips away at that notion or feeling of security.”

For the Mississauga incident, Mohammad Moiz Omar, 24, has been charged with assault with a weapon, administering a noxious substance with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm, carrying a concealed weapon and mischief to religious property.

There’s a real problem in this country’

Answerer said that addressing the issue of Islamophobia in Canada requires a multi-layered approach focusing on community, outreach, education and policy such as the Our London Family Act.

Mariam Hamou, London’s first-ever female Muslim city councilor, said her “heart sank” when she heard of the attack on Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre, and that it speaks to the level of discrimination Muslims are facing every day.

Mariam Hamou, London, Ont., councilor for Ward 6, says her ‘heart sank’ when she heard of the attack on Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Center in Mississauga, (Submitted by Mariam Hamou)

“It happened in Mississauga, in GTA, which is generally a more progressive group of people. And the fact that it’s happening around there means there’s a real problem in this country,” said Hamou.

“If we’re trying to get to this place in this country where we’re trying to enforce rights for everyone and to make sure that everyone feels included, my children are seeing these images and these ideas out there that Muslims aren’t welcome in Canada, and they’re taking that in those images and they’re taking that information in,” said Hamou.

“I don’t want that to be the dominant idea in their head about what Canada is all about.”

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