Members of a mosque in Mississauga, Ont., are raising money to repair the damage that was caused after a man allegedly attacked worshippers during an early-morning prayer last weekend.
A group of about 20 men were praying at the mosque on Saturday morning when a man wielding an axe and bear spray entered the prayer hall and allegedly discharged the noxious substance towards people who were praying.
A few of the congregants quickly subdued the alleged attacker until police arrived.
Ibrahim Hindy, who is the imam of the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre, said the fundraiser aims to help restore the mosque ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, which starts April 2.
“The carpets still have that residue of the bear spray and congregants are still really being irritated by it. And it got into our ventilation system as well, so we’re trying to raise funds to fix those those things,” he said in an interview.
“We’re also looking to provide mental health support for the people who congregants come to the mosque, especially those who were there at the time (of the attack). And we’re also trying to make some security upgrades.”
Hindy said the worshippers who were there at the time of the incident are “thankful” that the alleged attacker was quickly stopped in his tracks, but feel “violated” at a place they consider to be their “second home.”
He said the mosque is looking to partner with a few organizations, including Sakeenah Homes, to offer mental health resources to those community members and others who require it.
The mosque is also considering locking its doors during prayer sessions, installing an extra emergency exit door in the prayer hall and having people greet visitors at the front of the mosque to keep an eye on anything “unusual,” he said.
While the spirit of mosques is to be “open to everyone,” even those who are not Muslim, Hindy said the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre feels the need to take additional security measures in the wake of the alleged attack, though some congregants don’t want it to seem as though they feel “intimidated.”
“The idea of kind of like locking doors and just checking people as they come in, it’s not something we really like to do. We feel it kind of goes against the spirit of the mosque and the openness that it should have,” he said.
“But unfortunately, because of what just happened to us and then the reality of the world we live in, it’s something that we have to be able to do right now.”
Since its launch on Tuesday, the fundraiser has raised more than $3,000.
Hindy said the fundraiser was initially hosted on the mosque’s website until it got hacked on Wednesday,. He believes the hacker supports the alleged attack.
“It felt even more like somebody clearly feels happy that this happened to us and wants to support that evil by hacking our website,” he said.
After the hack, Hindy said people reached out to the mosque to ask if they could send in their donations some other way, so the mosque decided to host the fundraiser on a third-party website.
“It’s so heartening to see that there are people supporting our campaign,” he said.
Peel Regional Police say Mohammad Moiz Omar, 24, is facing several charges in connection to the alleged attack at the Dar Al-Tahweed Islamic Centre, which is believed to be “hate-motivated.”
It comes less than a year after four members of a Muslim family, who were out for an evening stroll, were run down and killed by a vehicle in London, Ont., in what police have called an attack motivated by hate. A fifth member of the family survived.
Hindy said it’s “past the time” that Canadians take Islamophobia seriously and take actions to address it.
“It’s red alarms going off,” he said.
“And it needs to really be the top priority for everyone in our civic society, including our politicians. And so whatever laws that can be passed to enhance dealing with hate in our communities needs to be … the top priority for everyone.”