Calgary Muslim leaders say community is nervous as Ramadan starts

WATCH: It's the most important month of the year in the Muslim calendar. Tens of thousands of Muslims in Calgary will be observing the start of Ramadan Sunday night. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, some are expressing concerns about security in light of recent terroist attacks around the world.

Starting Sunday night, Muslims in Calgary will mark the start of Ramadan.

For the next 30 days, Muslims around the world will abstain from eating or drinking during daylight hours.

This year, there are concerns that some will stop going to mosques for fear of attacks.

READ MORE: Calgarians gather to mourn victims of Sri Lanka bombings: ‘We have to show them our solidarity’

“People are a bit nervous,” said Atthar Mahmood, the vice president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and president of Muslims Against Terrorism.

“We the people of faith are defenceless when we are in the synagogue or mosque or church. We cannot defend ourselves when we are engaged in our peaceful prayers. People in Sri Lanka, what were they doing? They were just gathered to do their prayers.”

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Mahmood said there was a drop in the number of young people attending prayers in Calgary after the New Zealand mosque attacks that killed 50 people.

READ MORE: Calgarians gather at city hall to grieve victims of New Zealand mosque shooting

“Right after the incident in New Zealand, when I held the prayers, I had a lot of my young people come to pray there and in the next two Fridays, only a few of them showed up and I knew that was the cause going on,” Mahmood said.

Recent attacks against racial and religious groups have sparked a group of Calgarians to create an anti-hate task force. The first gathering, organized by Calgarians Against Racism Violence and Hate, was held in early April. The group is comprised of concerned members from religious groups and cultural associations.

READ MORE: Calgarians launch anti-hate task force

Mahmood met with local RCMP this year, saying police offered congregation members advice over security in mosques and how to spot suspicious people.

“Sometimes it’s very difficult for us to determine [if] somebody sitting in the hallway walks in there because we don’t have any metal detectors,” Mahmood said. “We don’t have anything. People just normally walk in.”

The month-long celebration of Ramadan commemorates Allah giving the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Observing Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, involving fasting, praying and giving to charity.

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