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Hamilton mosque plans for worst-case scenarios after terrorist attacks in New Zealand

thespec 2019-03-16 01:16:07

Hamilton Mountain Mosque Iman Sayed Tora told hundreds of congregants Friday "We have to make sure our youth and children are engaged in the conversation against intolerance, Islamophobia, against hate of any kind" | John Rennison, The Hamilton Spectator

"We have to be proud of who we are, proud of our faith ... We have to make sure our youth and children are engaged in the conversation against intolerance, Islamophobia, against hate of any kind."

Tora expressed hope all Hamilton residents will speak out against "white supremacist messages" that he argued flourish online, in extremist political discourse or in simple graffiti left on a park fence.

Organizers behind the city's first anti-racism resource centre recently earned criticism for temporarily closing the advice and referral agency's doors over concerns it was not reaching enough people.

Tora expressed hope the centre will reopen sooner rather than later — ideally with a "greater focus" on Islamophobia. Police statistics for 2018 recorded 14 complaints about hate crimes against the Islamic community, or nearly 30 per cent of investigated incidents related to religion.

Both imams thanked Hamilton residents for reaching out with messages of support. "That sense of solidarity, of partnership with so many communities, is very uplifting in a difficult time," said Al-Taher.

Those messages included a joint statement Friday from Hamilton rabbis denouncing the mass murders and "spirit of boundless hate" that led to the shootings. "We stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters at this difficult time. We know your pain too well," they said.

Hamilton Liberal MP Bob Bratina attended the Mountain mosque prayer service Friday and told congregants city residents "cannot be silent" in the face of the "extremist views that led to this horrendous attack."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger tweeted his response to the "deplorable violence against the Muslim community" Friday. "We need unity not division! Love not hate! ... Visit a mosque today and show them we care!"

The city will light up the "HAMILTON" sign this weekend at City Hall in the colours of the New Zealand flag (blue, white and red) as a sign of support for the country and the Muslim community. The City of Burlington is also lowering its flags to recognize the victims.

Const. Lorraine Edwards said Friday that Hamilton police "increased their presence" at area mosques and monitored the international terrorism investigation.

She urged the public to reach out to police with any concerns. "If you see or hear something that is concerning, please call," she said. "We will do our best to help out in any way we can."

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec

905-526-3241 | @Mattatthespec