Muslims feel Red Deer a safe community: spokesman

“Quebec in our thoughts and prayers”

Incidents such as the one in Quebec on Sunday where a gunman killed six Muslims stem from fear and ignorance, a local spokesman for the Muslim community in Red Deer said Monday.

Jawed Iqbal, a member of the Red Deer Islamic Center, said that it’s the responsibility of Muslims everywhere to be more open and more welcoming and not shy away from dialogue.”

“Regardless of differences in faith … we do have a lot of common values as human beings and we can disagree with each other respectfully. But I feel … we need to engage with our fellow Canadians and talk about issues instead of making assumptions.”

“As Muslims we have our brothers and sisters in Quebec in our thoughts and prayers.”

Iqbal, 35, said a lot of people who have never met a Muslim. “They’ve never had the chance … to see them as another human being. And once that happens … I think most of those barriers fall down.”

“What I would say is any form of violence is an indication of someone’s frustration of not having their own way, and there’s a lot of people on both sides of the extremist spectrum, whether it be religious fanatics or people who despise people of a certain faith.”

“The unfortunately reality of our world today is that these things have become sort of a norm. … Our community has in a way become desensitized to acts of violence, whether perpetrated by so-called Muslims in the name of Islam, or people who oppose Islam as a faith and spread misinformation about.”

“It stems from fear and ignorance … and when combined, they foster hate and violence.”

“God instructs us to show kindness and compassion to our neighbours and our co-workers and our friends who are not of the Muslim faith.” And if there is animosity, Muslims should not become angry or violent themselves, he said.

Muslims here feel that Red Deer is a very safe community, Iqbal said.

“I think I echo the sentiments of a lot of Muslim people in Red Deer that it is a very warm and welcoming community.”

Iqbal said any time there’s something that negatively affects the Muslim community, there are a lot of other people who stand with them, sending messages by email for example. An anonymous person left a card, some roses and a small Canadian flag on the Red Deer Islamic Center’s front steps on Monday.

Iqbal said the Muslim population in Canada is not that big so he suspects someone in Red Deer would have some personal connections in Quebec City. He estimates the Muslim community in Red Deer at 800 to 900 people, but could be as high as 1,500 in all of Central Alberta.

The Islamic centre is always open and anyone is welcome to stop by and ask questions, and they have open houses as well, he said.

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