“I have been in Canada for over 18 years,” says Zaihan Rashid, outreach coordinator for the Islamic Centre of Oshawa. “This isn’t Canada.”
On Jan. 29, 27-year old Alexandre Bissonnette walked into a prayer room at the Centre Culturel Islamique Québec armed with a gun. Bissonnette killed six Muslims and injured another 19 during their evening prayers.
The Quebec mosque shooting is another reminder that Islamphobia is real.
“Many Muslims in the local community and outside have been shocked by what happened,” explains Rashid in reaction to the events.
In 2016 The National Council of Canadian Muslims reported 63 incidents of hate crimes towards Muslims. The figures went up from 12 in 2013, 23 in 2014 to 59 in 2015 respectively.
Islamaphobia also affects Durham Region. Last year, one of the Islamic Centre’s windows was vandalized causing more than $10,000 in damage.
“I have observed a distrust of Muslim in Canada over the last two-to-three years,” says Rashid. “The factor of fear and perhaps ignorance compound together by exposure to media.”
Following the Quebec incident, the region of Durham has shown much support for its local Muslim community and mosques he says.
“The support comes from everywhere,” says Rashid.
Many have sent sympathy cards to the Oshawa mosque and called since the events, he says. Local residents have also stopped him on the streets.
“I was walking and I was stopped by a lady. She said, ‘I just want you to know that we are horrified by what happened in Quebec City’,” he recalls.
A vigil was held at the Islamic Centre of Oshawa on February 1st in remembrance of those who died in Quebec. Many came to show support, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
“It’s very touching you see things like that, no matter how much anybody feels the effects of Islamophobia in this country whatever shape or form,” Rashid says. “That shows the country’s literal complete rejection of this message of hate that the person who did what they did was trying to perpetrate. The voice of of peace and joining as opposed to separating is much stronger.”
Durham Region Police Services were quick to show support to the local Muslim community after hearing the news.
“Any time that a major event like that happens there’s a major ripple effect across Canada,” says David Selby of the DRPS Corporate Communications unit. “What you find in most jurisdictions is the police then immediately reaches to the people and their community that are most affected by that news.”
Selby says police patrolling around mosques was increased following the Quebec shooting.
“When that information broke we immediately reached out to a lot of our Muslim partners that we work with on a regular basis just to make sure that they’re aware of what happened [and say] that we support them and that we have increased patrol around mosques,” he says.
Durham College president Don Lovisa shared his feelings with students and faculty members.
“At DC, we take immense pride in being a welcoming place where we are all respected for the unique identities that each of us brings to campus. As an organization, we strive to provide a safe environment where diversity is embraced and everyone is treated with dignity. Our commitment to these values will not waver, particularly in the face of attacks that are designed to target and frighten members of our community,” Lovisa says, in a statement.
The faith Durham’s Muslim community remains strong after the attack, says Rashid.
“Before we make any distinction between different faiths, I try to point that we are all human beings in our reactions first,” says Rashid. “Our belief as Muslims is that there are not going to be an explanation for every single thing. Therefore, we have to accept that some of the events are not going to be under our control.”