Communities come together in wake of political violence

Photo by Matt Pellerin

Imam Shakir Pandor has not let violence against his mosque sway his beliefs.

A local expert on hate crimes says that the current political climate is fostering hatred.

Dr. Barbara Perry, a UOIT professor and leading expert on hate crimes, says people like U.S. president-elect Donald Trump have allowed people to act on some of their more damaging beliefs.

“People do experience individual problems and find themselves unemployed for long periods of time, or underemployed,” says Dr. Perry. “They’ve got to find somebody to blame because clearly [in their mind] it’s not their fault. It provides an easy out. It provides a scapegoat.”

Imam Shakir Pandor can attest to it first hand. He is the leader of the Islamic Center of Oshawa, a mosque that fell victim to a shooting.

It was daytime, and children were playing outside of the mosque when they heard a bang. Pandor later discovered that one of the mosque’s windows had been shot with a high-powered pellet gun.

The imam says broken windows are just one result of attacks like these.

“In these types of circumstances, there are two types of damages that take place,” says the imam. “One is the physical, the actual glass, and it’s not too difficult to replace. It’s the anxiety and anxiousness that comes along with an incident of this nature that is a little more difficult to fix.”

Dr. Perry says through her studies she has found that Islamic terror groups aren’t the real problem we face.

“We do have white supremacist organizations and groups,” says Dr. Perry. “They are a bigger threat than Islamic extremist groups.”

Fortunately, according to Dr. Perry, there is a silver lining.

“Sometimes it does mobilize communities, and their allies as well to stand up,” says Dr. Perry.

After the attack on the imam’s mosque, Oshawa proved that communities and allies will mobilize and show solidarity. Pandor says that city councillors, hospital chaplains and local neighbours dropped by shortly after the attack.

“We had people coming by to give words of support. That was encouraging. It was good to see that.”

The imam recognizes that the attack was the result of one person and not an entire community. Pandor prefers to take the high road and holds no ill will towards the attacker of his mosque.

“I don’t have any hate for the person involved,” says the imam. “I’m sure they have to clarify their own misinformation and we would be happy to help with that.”

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Matthew Pellerin is a second year journalism student at Durham College. He enjoys writing about politics, technology, and news ranging from around the world, the local community, to right on campus. When he's not waxing poetically on his blog, he's usually nose-deep in world news.