A Mississauga, Ont. imam says he’s received threats against his life and a message calling for the burning of a mosque where he practices amid rising religious tensions at the Peel District School Board and wider community.
Ibrahim Hindy said he contacted police after receiving an anti-Islamic email Friday with a picture of men being hanged and a Facebook message referring to the mosque as “one of many satan safe houses that need to be burned to the ground.”
“It was frightening to hear that and to see that this type of hatred is reaching this level,” Hindy told Global News Wednesday.
“This is my community and I know the majority of Canadians are against this. Canada’s about decency, it’s about respect — it’s not about threatening the lives of people you happen to disagree with on an issue.”
LISTEN: Ibrahim Hindy joins The Morning Show on AM640
Hindy said in recent months he spoke out at PDSB meeting as a member of a multi-faith committee that works to provide religious accommodation for students, in effort to defend a school board effort to offer a prayer space for Muslim students.
“I never imagined that it would take off and that people would attack it with such vitriol … people started attacking me online and from there I received a death threat in my email address,” Hindy said.
“They were also on social media, people talking explicitly about burning down the mosque that I work at.”
VIDEO: Peel District School Board votes to accommodate Muslim Friday prayer
Last month, school board officials spoke out against a video posted online by a man who said he was opposed to religious accommodation in public schools. In the video, he offered a $1,000 reward for recordings of Muslim students spouting “hate speech” during Friday prayers.
That video came after a school board meeting earlier in the month when attendees shouted anti-Islamic comments and a man was seen tearing up pages of the Qur’an.
Hindy said the rising religious tensions in the community and the threats he received prompted him to speak out against extremism and racism in hopes of tackling it head on.
VIDEO: Woman confronts man tearing apart Qur’an as protesters disrupt Mississauga school board meeting
“I’m kind of extending my hand out there and saying anybody who wants to work against extremism, all forms of extremism, come and talk to me and let’s work together and let’s organize together,” he said.
“We have to confront every form of hatred and bigotry. If it’s anti-Semiticism we have to confront it, if it’s Islamophobia we have to confront it, if it’s anti-black racism we have to confront it — whatever it is, we’ve got to recognize it and work together to confront it.”
Hindy added the students are in the “formative years of their lives” and this type of discrimination can be “traumatic” for them.
VIDEO: Controversial video rewarding $1,000 to whomever films Muslim students at the Peel District School Board spouting ‘hate speech’
“I can only imagine what they’re thinking,” he said. “They understand that people are trying to push us to hate — we’re not going to hate.”
A PDSB spokesman said in a statement the board would be requiring future attendees to sign in, provide government-issued identification, consent to being recorded on video and adhere to a code of conduct or be removed to “ensure the safety of staff, students, parents and community members.”
“These threats and hateful comments are not who we are as Canadians,” Brian Woodland said.
“We have had the privilege to work with caring, committed leaders of many faiths, including Imam Hindy. Their advice and input should be welcomed with appreciation, not threats. This shows us how much work we have to do together to create a truly inclusive community.”
Hindy filed a criminal complaint and Sgt. Josh Colley said Peel Regional Police are investigating the threats and a suspicious vehicle previously seen in the parking lot near the mosque.
“What we’ve done is we’ve stepped up patrols in the area of his residence and the Islamic centre,” he said, adding the investigation was in its early stages.
“The investigators are working and again they’re collecting any evidence they can to determine what the cause or who the sender and what’s involved in this incident.”
VIDEO: Peel District School Board takes stand on religious accommodation
Colley said there is a possibility that the incident could be investigated as a hate crime depending on the evidence collected and after further consultation with the Crown and Attorney General’s office.
“I’m trying to be cautious, but I’m also trying to be brave for everyone and I don’t want to just be quiet and cower in silence because I think that’s the intent of those who are trying to threaten me,” Hindy said.
“I want to turn what’s really negative into something very positive … I want to push back against them and I want to say, ‘I hate extremism and I’m willing to work with anyone against it.'”