Members of Montreal’s Muslim community are reacting with horror to the attack in London, Ont., which left four people from one family dead.
In the wake of other recent incidents, some say it was just a matter of time before something like this happened, and they fear there could be more attacks.
During midday prayers at the Al-Madinah Centre in downtown Montreal Tuesday, thoughts were about safety.
“You know such incidents are extremely hard to protect against,” said the president of the centre and part-time Imam, Bilal Abdul Kader.
“What can I do if someone is gonna jump on me with his car?”
According to the London Police Service, a driver of a pickup truck intentionally mounted a sidewalk and struck five family members out for an evening walk. Only a nine-year-old boy survived. Police are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
“It’s madness,” declared Hassan Dalmar Awil at the centre, just before prayers, “but he’s not alone,” referring to the 20-year-old driver.
Awil and others believe there’s a growing wave of hatred.
In April, Montreal police say a man discharged a pellet gun on the front of the Centre Communautaire Islamique Assahaba in Montreal’s Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie borough.
Al-Madinah Centre members also remember the massacre at a Quebec City mosque in 2017 saying they too face hate.
“It happens even to us,” Abdul Kader pointed out, “like on social media we’re getting a lot of hate messages lots of negative messages.”
Awil pointed to harassment of members and worry about what to tell his kids when they see incidents like the one in Ontario.
“When they see something like that and they question me ‘what is this?” he wondered, “what answer can I give them?”
Abdul Kader and others said they are heartened to see the outpouring of support from the public following tragedies like the London attack.
“Praise be to God, the whole community was standing with them,” he noted.
Still, he insisted, more has to be done to protect anyone experiencing hate.
Fellow mosque member Ahmed Assad pointed out that people should watch what they say publicly.
“People need to understand that their statements and the words that they make have consequences,” he stressed, ” and it can cost someone’s life.”
Community members say they want governments to do more, citing, for example, Quebec’s secularism law, which they claim targets certain communities,
and the Legault government’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism.
Mohammed Labidi, co-founder and former president of the Quebec City mosque, is flabbergasted to see another attack in Canada.
“The perfect lesson from the tragedy of Quebec is not applied well,” he said, “and perhaps we should work (harder) — more effective — to avoid another tragedy.”
Abdul Kader also wants police to take Islamophobia more seriously.
“I reported many incidents to the police here, and they took them lightly,” he claimed.
He said until members of his community feel safe, the leadership at the mosque plans to launch an awareness campaign for its members about how to protect themselves.
A vigil is planned for 5:30 Wednesday evening at Place des Arts in Montreal, to remember the victims of the London attack.