‘These acts are becoming much more common,’ laments the Muslim community of Simcoe County
Oro-Medonte, Ont. –
Five days after a Muslim family from London, Ontario. was hit and killed by a van because of their faith, the Muslims of Oro-Medonte gathered to mourn and pray.
Under recently eased COVID-19 restrictions, mosques in Barrie and Oro-Medonte were able to welcome people inside for the first time in months.
After Friday prayers, the Maryam Mosque in Oro-Medonte hosted members of the OPP, local and federal politicians who wished to share their condolences and offer their support.
“Our hearts are heavy with grief and pain,” mosque president Waseem Choudhry told the group. “These acts are becoming more and more frequent.”
When Imam Sagher Mahmood Bajwa learned of Sunday’s attack, his thoughts turned to the survivor, nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal, and those close to him.
“What hurts me the most is that I take the same walk every night. With my mother, with my father, with my niece.”
As deep as this pain is, it is familiar.
“These tragedies are not new to us. Our Ahmadiyya Muslim community, we have been the target of hate crimes even in Pakistan in our own country,” Bajwa said. “It’s just about reiterating our basic teachings. And that’s about responding with patience and responding with prayers.”
The mosque’s vice president says the outpouring of love from the wider community is helping them heal.
But the condolences go no further.
“These words are helpful, but we need action. We really need to address the deep rooted issues of what is causing this hatred,” Mahmood Sheikh said.
With tears in his eyes, Doug Shipley, MP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, pledged to do whatever he can to end anti-Muslim hatred.
“The conversation is over. It’s time to act. And we need to listen to what they’re looking for, how we can support them and move forward,” Shipley said.
Sheikh believes politicians should seek to dedicate resources to education, identifying and eradicating sources of misinformation and hate.
He and Bajwa both see self-education and learning from your neighbor as part of the solution.
“Reach out, learn a little more, and you will learn that we are not very different from each other,” says Sheikh.
Bajwa admits that some people will not be motivated to learn, grow, love. He says for these people, all he can do is pray.