Cold Lake Muslims urge calm in wake of Paris attacks

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Cold Lake RCMP met with a representative from the Cold Lake mosque to reassure local Muslims against potential backlash after a spike in Islamophobic incidents around the country following the Paris attacks.

“Our operating procedures haven’t changed so far, we have no reason to believe that our local mosque is going to be a target,” said Cold Lake RCMP S/Sgt. Jeremie Landry. “We have had communication with the mosque just to ensure that they can turn to us if there are ever any situations that come up.”

RCMP invited mosque representative Mahmoud El-Kadri to a meeting last Wednesday to reassure him that the RCMP ensures the protection of all citizens and that the mosque should never hesitate to contact the police if assistance is needed.

“It was a very positive meeting and I think we have a good partnership, an excellent partnership actually, with the local mosque and those lines of communication are open,” Landry noted.

Islamic Society of Cold Lake President Ajaz Quraishi denounced the horrific Nov. 13 attacks Paris attacks, in which members of the Islamic State group killed 129 people and injured hundreds more in a series of coordinated attacks around the French capital.

“We don’t believe that these guys are Muslims, they are terrorists, whoever is doing these things…it’s out of the question that they’re Muslims, so it’s got nothing to do with Islam.”

A Peterborough, Ont. mosque sustained extensive damages after being burned in what police have confirmed was an act of arson on Saturday, Nov. 14. Last Monday, a Muslim woman was punched in the stomach and face and called a terrorist on the way to pick up her children at school in Toronto.

“Nobody can stop it, backlash happens. You try your best, you show you’re Muslims (and) Muslims are peaceful, that’s the most important thing,” Quraishi said. “I will insist, everybody should be patient during these times and persevere and care for the people.”

Quraishi, a Cold Lake resident for over 30 years, sits on multiple community organization committees and is the chapter president of Lakeland United Way. He stressed that Muslims in Cold Lake are like him: deeply committed to their community and hard working, just like everybody else.

“I see people are more important than religion, religion is one part but the people, humanity is most important.”

The Cold Lake mosque was vandalized in November 2014, when it was spray painted with messages saying, “go home” and “Canada.” People from across the country reached out to the mosque, Cold Lake residents and members of 4 Wing volunteered to scrub off the paint.

In a similar gesture of reaching out to their neighbours, Peterborough residents created a fundraising campaign that successfully raised more than the $80,000 to offset the cost of damages to the mosque within days and a local church gave Muslims a space to pray in the meantime.

“In every place there are good and bad people out there so you cannot take the brush and paint everybody the same,” Quraishi noted. “ The same thing (has) happened to churches also. They didn’t do (anything), but some people do this; it’s happened to synagogues, it’s happened to every place.”

Nevertheless, Quraishi does believe that perpetrators of hate crime should be brought to justice.

“People…have to get caught and they have to be punished, that’s the proper way, the legal way.”

The mosque has installed a security camera that has become operational recently and has not reported any incidents since the attacks.

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