London’s Muslim community responds to attack on Mississauga mosque

Members of the Muslim community in London, Ontario, say they are saddened and angry at the 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 released bear spray in what authorities said was a “hate-motivated incident”.

Peel regional police say the man also brandished an ax as he entered the mosque. Some members managed to tackle and restrain him, but not before some of the 20 people present were slightly injured by 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 kinds of negative emotions to hear someone enter a mosque with an ax and equipment to hurt people,” said Imam Aarij Anwer of the Muslim mosque in London.

Anwer said that years before moving to London, he delivered Friday sermons at the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Center, and that London’s Muslim Mosque stands next to the center.

“I’m very thankful it hasn’t escalated to something worse,” he said.

On June 6, 2021, four members of the Afzaal family were killed standing on the pavement 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 injured, but survived.

Yumna Afzaal, 15, Madiha Salman, 44, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, from left to right, were taking an evening stroll when they were run over by a truck in what police say was an attack prompted 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 charges of terrorism.

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

“With every incident there is a cumulative effect, so after Quebec City, after the IMO mosque and then of course what happened in London – every time that idea or sense of security breaks down.”

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, possess a weapon for a dangerous purpose , making a threat of death or bodily harm, carrying a concealed weapon, and mischief on religious property.

There is a real problem in this country’

Anwer said tackling 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 councillor, said her “heart sank” when she heard of the attack on the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Center, and that it speaks of the level of discrimination Muslims face every day.

Mariam Hamou, London, Ontario, councilor for Ward 6, says her ‘heart sank’ when she learned of the attack on the 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,” Hamou said.

“When we try to get to this place in this country where we try to enforce rights for everyone and make sure everyone feels involved, my kids see these images and these ideas that Muslims are not welcome in Canada, and that they incorporate into those images and they incorporate that information,” Hamou said.

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

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