Loading articles...

Edmonton's Muslim community saddened to see swastika painted on mosque building

EDMONTON (CityNews) – The swastika a symbol envoking hate, found spray painted on an Edmonton mosque Tuesday.

But the Imam of Baitul Hadi prefers to focus on the cards and flowers dropped off, saying some arrived at the mosque following the terrorism attack in London, Ontario, killing three generations of one family.

“We believe most of Canadians, have this kind of gesture. Love and sympathy,” said Nasir Butt, Imam of the Baitul Hadi Mosque.

“There’s a few things that go through every Muslim’s mind right now, especially in the wake of the attack which took place in London, Ont., on an innocent family,” said Safwan Choudhry, a spokesman for the Baitul Hadi Mosque.

“This particular symbol has become a symbol of hate, has become a symbol of division, and it has become a way of creating fear in people.”

He said in an interview Wednesday that young community members have been taking turns to patrol the mosque 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The Edmonton police hate crimes unit is being consulted on this case, however police say the spray paint might not be new.

“The preliminary investigation has revealed that this symbol may have been there since as early as April, however police continue to actively investigate the matter,” said Edmonton Police Services in a statement.

“In April, two other similar incidents of hate vandalism were reported to the EPS within the same neighborhood, on both a vehicle and a fence. Investigators believe the same suspect(s) may be responsible for all three instances.”

The mosque also said in a statement that the vandalism follows a report of threats made against an Ontario mosque on the same day the swastika was called in.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims said Tuesday that two individuals illegally attempted to enter the Islamic Institute of Toronto and uttered several violent threats.

The threats included bomb threats against the Toronto institution, the council said.

“We are extremely concerned and saddened that this incident took place in our beautiful place of worship,” said Fareed Amin, chair of the institute’s board of directors.

“No community, or any place of worship, should be subjected to such threats and heightened anxiety.”

Both Premier Jason Kenney and Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iverson took to social media

As to how the symbol went unnoticed since April. The location of the spray paint can’t be seen from the closest entrance of the mosque, and it only becomes visible from a distance or elevation. The mosque only knew about it once neighbours alerted them.

“We’ve been living two pandemics, COVID-19 and the health implications, and racism and it’s impact on communities,” said Irfan Chaudhry, director at MacEwan University office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity.

Chaudry adds, there have been more reported hate crimes and racism in recent months and years, saying it was rising before COVID-19 but the past year and a half have had an impact.

“On social media, we have likely just stayed within our own filter bubble, whatever side of the spectrum you might be on and I think what makes that even more pressing with COVID, it re-affirms biases we have around certain groups, it may re-affirm inaccurate information.”

There is a section of a criminal code relating to mischief on religious property, that brings a harsher sentence.

They will continue to spread the message of the words on the front of their building “love for all, hatred for none,” and are just waiting on police to finish their investigation to clean up the hateful marking.

-With files from the Canadian Press