Mamoun Elsaid, a member of the Red Deer Islamic Centre, holds a tree brought to the mosque by Deer Park neighbours who expressed their condolences about the New Zealand shootings. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer’s Muslim community reacts in shock and fear to New Zealand mosque shootings

With inflamed anti-Muslim sentiment, violence can happen anywhere, says local community leader

Horror and fear are gripping many members of Red Deer’s Muslim community after the New Zealand mosque shootings.

“People feel terrified, sad and isolated,” said Pashtoonyar Zekria, president of the Red Deer Islamic Centre after Friday’s prayer service at the Deer Park mosque.

With anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment running high around the globe, Zekria said many members of his Red Deer mosque believe the act of terrorism that left 49 people dead in Christchurch could happen anywhere — even here.

“I told them Canada allows us to exercise freedom of religion. … don’t let hate (win),” said Imam Muhammad Patel, who tried to provide “comfort, solace and reassurance” to frightened mosque members on Friday.

Since arriving in Red Deer from Ontario 1 1/2 months ago, Patel, a second-generation Canadian, said he hasn’t experienced any problems. Some compassionate Deer Park neighbours visited the mosque to express their condolences over the New Zealand shootings, bringing a small tree as a symbol of solidarity.

But there has also been negativity directed at Muslims in central Alberta — both by some of the Yellow Vest protesters — and at a more personal level.

Some anti-Muslim scrawls were discovered on the mosque’s exterior about a year ago. Then Zekria’s wife was approach by a man in Walmart a few months ago who told her, “F—-‘n Muslim, why don’t you go back to your own country?” he recalled. “She was terrified.”

Another local Muslim woman related having an angry man beat her car windshield with his shoe while she was attempting to leave a mall parking lot.

Zekria believes Muslim women are a conspicuous target because they wear the hijab head-covering. But a Muslim man wearing a kufi cap told Zekria that he was given a hard time recently by a customer at a local Subway. Staff of the fast-food outlet soon stepped in and refused to serve the racist man, said Zekria.

Despite these recent incidents and tire slashings that happened outside the mosque several years ago, members of the city’s Muslim community say they are generally happy to live in this peaceful, quiet city.

Cab driver Mamoun Elsaid said he’s lived for 20 years and raised four kids in Red Deer and has generally found city residents to be friendly and tolerant — with the occasional exception of a drunk who stereotypes minorities.

“Mostly things are very good and we appreciate it here,” said Saud Mohammed, a first-aid instructor. But the “devastating news” from New Zealand “is a shock” and has fanned some local fears, he confirmed.

Imam Patel wants the general population to know that the Islamic religion values peace. He said he would be happy to have a discussion about Muslims and their faith with anyone who wants to know more.

Board members of the mosque plan to meet with city officials see if police can patrol their neighbourhood during Friday prayer service, and are also discussing hiring private security company.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

WATCH: UCP leader Jason Kenney makes stop in Red Deer

A rally was held in the north end of the city Saturday afternoon

Good-bye ice and snow, hello potholes on Red Deer roads

City workers will be spending 20 hours a day on various road repairs

Fog advisory in effect for Red Deer, central Alberta

Heavy fog is affecting visibility for central Alberta drivers Saturday morning. A… Continue reading

Climate change’s impact on outdoor hockey discussed in Red Deer

Red Deer River Watershed Alliance held a forum Friday at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame

Collision between Red Deer transit bus and truck investigated by RCMP

No one on bus was hurt, truck driver had minor injuries

WATCH: Fashion show highlights Cree designers

The fashion show was part of a Samson Cree Nation conference on MMIW

Montreal priest stabbed during mass leaves hospital; suspect to be charged

MONTREAL — A Catholic priest who was stabbed as he was celebrating… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $35.7 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $35.7 million jackpot… Continue reading

New report details impact of proposed NS spaceport in event of explosion or fire

HALIFAX — The head of a company proposing to open Canada’s only… Continue reading

Quebec man convicted in Mafia-linked conspiracy deported to Italy

MONTREAL — Michele Torre, a Quebec man convicted in 1996 for his… Continue reading

Republican Karl Rove says conservatives need more than simplistic slogans

OTTAWA — Legendary Republican campaign strategist Karl Rove, known for his no-holds-barred… Continue reading

B.C. hospital’s use as shelter ‘clarion call’ about housing crisis, says mayor

The 10-bed regional hospital that serves the medical needs of 5,000 people… Continue reading

Puddle splashing: A rite of spring

Is there anything more fun than driving through water-filled potholes in the… Continue reading

Special evaluations can help seniors cope with cancer care

Before she could start breast cancer treatment, Nancy Simpson had to walk… Continue reading

Most Read