‘I love their kids the most’: Muslim community coming to grips with fatal Halifax house fire
The air was weighed down with sorrow as the imam for a Halifax mosque strung together pieces of heartwrenching information that devastated a refugee family, who fled to Canada in hopes of a better life.
“They are running away for the safety of their kids to die in Halifax,” Ibrahim Al-shanti said, the imam for Al-Barakah Masjid Mosque in Halifax.
Seven children from a Syrian family, ranging in age from four months to 15 years old, died in an early morning house fire in Spryfield.
Halifax police confirmed the fatalities and say a man with life-threatening injuries and a woman with non-life-threatening injuries were taken to hospital.
WATCH: Community members place flowers outside Halifax house where 7 children died in a fire
Global News has confirmed that the victims are all members of a Syrian refugee family that came to Nova Scotia in 2017 and moved into the home last year.
The family had taken part in activities at the Al-Barakah Masjid Mosque in Halifax.
Al-shanti, along with several other Muslim community members, spent the majority of the day at the hospital supporting the grieving mother, who is unsure whether her husband will survive his injuries.
“They are a very lovely family. They are young and I love their kids the most. They are adorable kids, but we lost them today,” Al-shanti said.
“We try to explain to [the mother] because she can’t understand what’s going on. It’s not easy for her. We try to arrange for the funeral for the kids.”
WATCH: Police: We know the community has gone through a real tragedy following deadly Halifax fire
The Muslim community in Nova Scotia is very tight-knit and it didn’t take long for news to spread of the devastation.
“It was close friends of the Syrian family who started getting information out right away within our groups, because when we find out about a death we have to prepare for it immediately to show support and be out there for the ‘janaza,’ it’s called,” Rana Zaman said.
Zaman says janaza represents the Muslim funeral service and is an opportunity for everyone to support the family. She adds that when the details surrounding the fire began to emerge, the community couldn’t comprehend the outcome.
“It doesn’t sound real and I don’t want to think that it’s real, but the entire community is in shock,” said Zaman.
“And this doesn’t mean the Muslim community, I think all of the Maritimes is in shock because Halifax, Halifax Regional Municipality, we’re a small community. Somebody knows somebody. You’re connected one way or another.”
WATCH: Outpouring of support for Syrian refugee family who saw all seven children perish in a house fire
Al-shanti said burial arrangements will be made once the bodies are released. In the meantime, the community is collecting funds to help support the mother. Two campaigns have been sanctioned by the Hants East Assisting Refugee Team (HEART), which sponsored the Barho family’s move to Canada. The first is on the HEART Society’s webpage, and the second is a GoFundMe page overseen by HEART, family friends and the Imam Council of Halifax.
“I wish the people just to make prayers for them. For the father to get well so they can survive calamity. It’s not easy, it’s not easy,” Al-shanti said.
— With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey
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