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Canadian Muslims Stand Up to Intimidation

Published: 09/10/2012 12:18:12 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Though feeling worried at first, the recent attacks on the Islamic center in the eastern Canadian city of Charlottetown have failed to intimidate Muslim community who has been living peacefully for decades.“This wa (more)

CAIRO - Though feeling worried at first, the recent attacks on the Islamic center in the eastern Canadian city of Charlottetown have failed to intimidate Muslim community who has been living peacefully for decades.

“This was getting too close for comfort,” Zain Esseghaier, who has been a Charlottetown resident for the last 33 years, told Toronto Star.

“That's a threat. I spent a good part of my life here. This is home for me.”

Mosque Threats Panic Canada Muslims

Charlottetown Muslim Fulfil Cherished Dream

Four years ago, the native of Tunisia and his fellow Muslim Society of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I) members set about finally acquiring their own place of worship.

A cross-country fundraising campaign raised about $500,000, enough to purchase a plot of land in an industrial park and build Masjid Dar As-Salam mosque.

In recent weeks, mosques in the city came under a series of threats of attacks.

Two weeks ago, a bottle of gasoline with a note reading “Defeat Jihad” was found on the front steps of the Masjid Dar As-Salam mosque.

The attack came two months after a truck of a contractor working on the building was set ablaze in August.

A pig's head was also left nailed to a post at the scene of a new mosque in the city last October.

“Of course, you're rattled at first,” Esseghaier said.

“You wonder what will be the next step? Will someone throw a Molotov cocktail through the window while someone is worshipping?”

This is not the first time mosques in Canada face threats.

In August, A commissionaire for the Victoria Coast Guard has threatened to blow up a new mosque in the southern city of Victoria.

Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.

A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.

Steadfast

Though the city's modest two-story mosque has been the target of three serious threats, Muslims remain steadfast, refusing to be intimidated.

“No one is going to force me to leave,” Esseghaier said.

“We are determined to continue. We are not going to let this threat stop us from what we're doing. There is no doubt about that in my mind.”

Facing their worries, 90 people of 120 frequent worshippers showed up for Friday afternoon's jummah prayer.

Most believe a few ignorant, fearful people are to blame and are not representative of the community.

“You look around and you say most people are good people and this is the exception to the rule,” said Esseghaier.

“We'll deal with it as an isolated case, even though it's the third time. It doesn't represent the values of the people in this province.”

P.E.I. is home to roughly 500 Muslim residents, most of whom live in Charlottetown and pray together.

Forced for years to pray in basements, gymnasiums and university classrooms, the mosque was a way of retaining the province's Muslim population, said the society's president Najam Chishti.

Living in Charlottetown since 1979 with his wife and three children, the retired chemist could not understand why people would attack his religion.

“We just want to ask, ‘What have we done that would warrant this? What are they are afraid of?'” Chishti asked bitterly.

Standing up to bigotry, Chishti said mosque attacks urged Charlottetown Muslims to engage residents and erase fundamentalist stereotypes.

“We are peaceful people,” said Chishti.

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net




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