Shaken by shots at mosque, Muslim leaders ask Legault to stop 'denial' of Islamophobia
MONTREAL -- The most recent attack on a Montreal-area mosque has left a community on edge and asking for stronger action from authorities.
"There are children who come to the mosque, and parents who trust us to take care of them," said Salam Elmenyawi, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.
"All this terrified the community as easily someone pointing a gun and shooting."
Surveillance footage from Monday evening shows a person approaching the Assahaba Islamique Community Centre on Belanger St. in eastern Montreal, and firing 11 shots with a BB gun before running away.
The attack left a window pock-marked, but the invisible damage went deeper.
Eleven adults were inside at the time, taking an Arabic language course, said the imam, Adil Charkaoui.
No one was injured or panicked, he said, but only because they thought someone was knocking at the door.
By the time they realized something had happened, the shooter was gone. The security video left them shocked, he said. Nobody can forget the fatal mass shooting in 2017, of course, he said.
"The tragedy of Quebec is still fresh in our memories," said Charkaoui. "We didn't forget what happened. Innocent people were killed."
Montreal police's hate crimes unit is now investigating, but the mosque's leaders want provincial leaders to take much greater notice.
"As a society we have to send a clear message so this minority [the attackers] cannot divide us," Charkaoui said.
"We said there is Islamophobia and nobody believed us -- there was denial, denial, denial by Mr. Legault and others," said Elmenyawi.
"So I ask our political leaders to change... course and communicate with the Muslim community in a better way."
Both men said they haven't yet heard the incident denounced or mentioned by politicians.
It's not the first time the mosque has been vandalized, Charkaoui said. This time they just happen to have video, paid for with federal funding.
That gives him hope the police investigation might lead somewhere, he said.
"I think it has a huge impact, and the video and those pictures help police, and they help us to send a message to society that it was unacceptable," he said.
Last fall, several mosques in the Montreal area were broken into and vandalized, with money stolen.
In January, swastikas were painted on a Westmount synagogue. Hate crimes against Asian Montrealers are also rising sharply.
At the mosque, both leaders said what happened there was a warning sign, and one that provincial leaders need to take seriously.