A socially-distanced crowd gathered outside the Lethbridge Islamic Centre on Monday night, honouring the four members of a London, Ont., family that were killed in what police say they believe was a hate crime.
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Local dignitaries joined the Lethbridge Muslim Association (LMA) in solidarity, including Mayor Chris Spearman, University of Lethbridge president Mike Mahon and Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh with the Lethbridge Police Service.
“Our people are a little bit scared; there’s lots of fear that this might happen in Lethbridge too,” said LMA president Abdelbasat Aborawi.
Aborawi said sadly, these gatherings are becoming all too common; threatening the sense of safety that’s normally felt by many Muslims in Canada.
“My family — I have three girls and my wife — they all wear hijabs, and they have never been subject to discrimination or harassment,” he said. “But I do hear from my own community people that they are scared to go for a walk, to get groceries.”
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Aborawi said he felt a range of emotions when he heard the news out of London, and soon after wondered what he could do to help.
“I would say it’s a mixture of sadness, frustration, anger and feeling hopeless,” he said.
“Maybe a day or two afterwards, you start thinking, ‘What should we be doing as individuals, as organizations, as politicians to make this stop?’”
Aborawi said the message to all should be that no one should die because of their religion.
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That message was echoed by each speaker on Monday night, including LMA Imam Zubair Sidyot, who said education is key to slowing down racism, as well as stopping the spread of any misinformation that could fuel hate.
“Educate yourself directly from the source, this is what I’ve always said,” Sidyot said.
“Our mosques are open. Our communities are open. Myself, as the imam, and many of the imams across Alberta, across Saskatchewan, across Canada, their doors are open. You can go any time. You can talk to them and learn Islam directly from the source.”
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