Watch above: A mosque in Cold Lake was vandalized this morning – the words ‘go home’ spray painted on the outside. But, the community came together to clean it and offer support. Laurel Gregory was there.
EDMONTON — It was an act of vandalism that shocked people across the country. The words ‘go home’ were spray painted on the outside of the Cold Lake Mosque.
It could have been another black mark in what has been a dark week, but because of the spirit of those in the community, it wasn’t.
After seeing the graffiti and broken windows at the mosque, many people in Cold Lake community came to the aid of their Muslim neighbours to scrub off the words and fix the damage.
Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland, who joined the Weekend Morning News Saturday via Skype, calls the vandalism extremely disappointing, but says he’s proud of Cold Lakers. Copeland was one of the first people at the mosque Friday morning, but it wasn’t long before dozens of people joined him.
“It’s tragic that somebody decided to put graffiti and the words ‘go home’ on the mosque, but basically what I was there for was reassurance that the community would come in and support in a big way,” said Copeland.
The mayor describes the mosque as part of the fabric of life in Cold Lake.
“All of Cold Lake is rallying around the mosque and the Muslim community,” Copeland said. “So many people from Cold Lake were coming up to them and apologizing and saying this by no means represents Cold Lake … There were actually several people in tears.”
Watch below: Mayor Copeland speaks about vandalism in his community
Nikki Williams was one of the Cold Lake residents who came out to help.
“I think it’s a terrible thing,” Williams added. “I think it shows just how ignorant people are about the whole situation.
“The people who go to this mosque, I’ve been born and raised with since I was a little kid, this is their home.”
Kelly Ross, a long-time Cold Lake resident who works at a business next to the mosque, recalls how quickly people rallied to help.
“And once we go the buckets, everyone just started coming. We didn’t even ask. We didn’t even have to ask.”
Mosque board director Mahmoud El-Kadri discovered the vandalism around 6 a.m. Friday when he arrived for morning prayer. He says there hasn’t been any previous acts of vandalism during the four years the mosque has been at its location.
El-Kadri doesn’t know if the vandalism somehow relates to the recent attacks on Canadian soldiers in Quebec and Ottawa, but says he was overwhelmed by the support offered Friday afternoon.
“I want to thank everybody,” he said. “I am in my country, my home, but they assured for me that I am in my country, in my home.
“I forgot the windows, I forget about the writing… It made me feel like I am one of the Cold Lake people.”
Watch below: Full interview with El-Kadri
Some of the residents helping out even started to sing the National Anthem.
Twitter users were quick to denounce the vandalism.
The RCMP in Cold Lake confirms it is investigating the criminal mischief incident and asks anyone with information to call (780) 480-8000.
Several nearby businesses may also be providing surveillance video of the incident to investigators.