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Dozens gather at local mosque to show support to Muslim community (8 photos)

'Nobody deserves to have some place that's so important to you violated like that,' says visitor

The word community was key as dozens gathered Thursday evening outside the Baitul Kareem Mosque to show support to the local Ahmadiyya population.

"We came because we have been invited in a friendly gesture and so we will respond by coming," said Nancy Kinsie, who was attending the Thursday evening open house at the mosque on Elliott Street with her husband Fred Kinsie.

Both had come by a week earlier to bring flowers on behalf of the Preston Mennonite Church, said Fred.

"Whether this is hate inspired or not, we just wanted to say we're sorry this happened and offer if there's anything we can do to help," he said, talking about the incident that took place on July 14.

Although a police investigation has concluded it was not a hate crime, Nancy said, it was still an unwelcome experience.

"It's still a violation. Nobody deserves to have some place that's so important to you violated like that," she said.

Marjorie Knight, who is a Cambridge resident and works with several clients in the neighbourhood through House of Friendship, said she was distressed by what happened.

"I was very distressed to hear about the incident. Distressed that it happened and sad that was something somebody felt they could do," she said. "This one wasn't (a hate crime) but there's a lot of it and these are things we need to talk about. We all, as racialized people, are working together to help those that are struggling and stand up against the hate we see in our community." 

The mosque, Knight said, cares about the community.

"They're always doing food drives for the food bank and they support the homeless shelter," she said, adding. "We need to find ways of bolstering each other and helping each other, and that's why I'm here today."

Where Knight and the Kinsies were already aware of the incident, it was curiosity about the open house sign that brought in Courtney Winkels and her friends. 

"I was on my way home and I saw they were having an open house and I just wanted to come and see what was happening and meet people in my community," she said. 

Winkels hadn't heard about the incident until she talked to the president of the mosque.

She said it made her feel, "pretty uncomfortable." 

"I'm disappointed that that happened," Winkels said. "I would like to not see something like that happen again. Coming together as a community and talking about it, even in online forums, it's the best way to get through something like that." 

The fact that police didn't declare it a hate crime was a relief for the local Ahmadiyya Muslim community, said Jabeen Mehmood, president of the women's group at the mosque.

"It's much better and little bit relaxing for our minds," she said. "Now we feel a little bit safe, otherwise, we were scared if we're coming to the mosque to offer prayers and something will happen." 

Fatir Ahmad, imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Guelph, agreed.

"No one wants to be a target of hate crimes anyway," he said. "From bad, sometimes good comes out. This opened the door for us to get closer to our neighbours and community." 

When the incident happened, Ahmad said, people brought flowers, offered donations, wrote cards, and came by to express their sympathy.

"This is what our religion teaches us: when someone does a favour for you, you should return that favour," he said, talking about the purpose of the open house. 

All donations, said Nomaan Mubashir, mosque president, were redirected to other organizations that are in greater need, such as the Bridges Shelter.

"We can cover the damages ourselves," he said.  

Nonetheless, Mubashir said, it was important to express gratitude to people for their support and kindness.

"We wanted to invite people and thank them in person," he said. "We're inviting them to come and have a conversation with us and as a token of our appreciation, we have a little gift for them."  

And with the gift hamper, which contained a book written by the Ahmadiyya faith leader, a pin, a mug, and a pen, was a resolve to continue to better understand one another. 

"My conviction is that love is stronger than hate," said Mubashir. "The response we've received from members that live in Cambridge has been resoundingly positive."

Knight said this is the opportunity to reach out to the mosque and learn more about their involvement in Cambridge.

"I want people to follow the example of this mosque, where they're reaching out to their community members and helping them where they are, whether it's with food or clothes or with a listening ear or helping hand," she said. 

Nancy said another simple way of increasing interfaith interaction and understanding is to hold potlucks.  

'It's really simple; it's really silly," she said. "But if you have equal number of people, you sit down and eat a meal together, you form relationships and you get to know each other. All of a sudden you're not strangers anymore."  

Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry and other political leaders, such as Bryan May, the local member of parliament, were also in attendance.


Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers municipal issues in Cambridge
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