Mississauga’s mayor said she is “incredibly thankful” for worshippers who subdued an alleged attacker at a mosque in the city last weekend.
“I’m incredibly thankful for the courage of the worshipers, one as young as 19 years old, who quickly sprung into action to take down the attacker and ensure that this didn’t become a much bigger tragedy,” Bonnie Crombie said during a press conference Thursday.
“I want all members of this mosque and Mississauga’s Muslim community to know that I stand in solidarity with you and join you in strongly condemning this brazen and unprovoked attack.”
Peel Regional Police previously said officers were called at around 7 a.m. Saturday to the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre in the McAdam Road and Matheson Boulevard area after receiving a report of an assault.
Police said a man walked into the centre and sprayed bear spray at members of the mosque, while “brandishing a hatchet.”
Officers said members of the mosque “quickly subdued the man until police arrived.”
Police said the incident was believed to be hate-motivated.
Members of the mosque were reported to have suffered minor injuries as a result of the bear spray.
Speaking on behalf of the mosque, Nadia Hasan of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said a group of about 20 men were in the middle of a dawn prayer, called Fajr, when the man allegedly carried out the attack.
Crombie said she has spoken to the mosque’s imam to offer support.
“As one of the most diverse and welcoming cities in the country, this incident is the furthest thing from who we are as a community,” she said.
Crombie said with Ramadan approaching, the mosque is looking at ways to better protect congregants, including keeping doors locked after prayers begin.
“This deeply saddens me, as residents should never feel scared, shaken or unsafe at places of worship,” the mayor said.
“These sacred places should be able to maintain an open-door policy.”
Crombie said she is also saddened that “these kinds of incidents” continue to happen in Canada and that hate crimes have been on the rise.
“I’m thankful that our partners at Peel police treat potential hate crimes with the utmost seriousness, with PRP having the highest charge rate for hate crimes of any large jurisdiction in Canada,” she added.
Twenty-four-year-old Mohammad Moiz Omar was arrested and charged in connection with the incident at the mosque.
— with files from Hannah Jackson