New updates have arisen in connection to an incident in which a man attacked mosque congregants with an ax and bear spray last month in Mississauga, Canada. According to the Canadian Press, Leader of the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre Imam Ibrahim Hindy said Thursday that the man who attacked mosque-goers on March 19 yelled that he was there to “kill terrorists.”
During the incident, the man discharged bear spray in the mosque while wielding an ax in the other hand, The Washinton Post reported. He was then tackled by a group of 20 congregants, who held him down until police officials arrived. Local reports indicate no one was seriously injured during the attack.
Worshippers who were lined up in the mosque heard the sound of Omar’s can of bear spray and were immediately alerted, CNN reported.
“He (the attacker) didn’t realize the spray was making noise so that immediately alerted people in the first row,” Noonrani Sairally, a congregant told CNN. “One of the young fellows in that row saw the hatchet and acted very quickly to knock it out of his hand. Then everyone quickly jumped on him and pushed him to the floor.”
According to Hindy, the man was unknown to the community despite having a Muslim-sounding name. Hindy alleged that the man identified as Mohammad Moiz Omar also had social media accounts full of anti-Muslim posts.
“It appears he was full of hate towards members of the Muslim community,” Hindy said, according to the Canadian Press. “When he attacked members of the community, he told members of the congregation as he was being tackled that he was there to kill terrorists.”
The man “clearly identifies as an ex-Muslim,” Hindy added.
According to a news release by the Peel Regional Police, charges against Omar include assault with a weapon, administering a noxious substance with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, utter threat to cause death or bodily harm, carrying a concealed weapon, and mischief to religious property. According to a Facebook post by the mosque, the 24-year-old suspect was also armed with “numerous other sharp-edged weapons.”
Police confirmed the incident was motivated by hate.
Worshippers remain traumatized and fearful of attending the mosque and religious activities.
According to the Post, the incident last month reminded Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre congregants of other painful memories, including a 2017 incident during which a man fired at 50 worshipers in a mosque near Quebec City, killing six and injuring 19 others.
“Many of them have sought therapy and mental health help from experts,” Hindy said. “Some of them were as young as 13 years old and they’re having nightmares.”
Advocates and local members are urging the government to pass the Our London Family Act, a bill created by the Ontario NDP and the National Council of Canadian Muslims after a Muslim family in London, Ontario was struck and killed by a truck. Police found that incident to be hate-motivated.
While the bill was introduced in the legislature earlier this year, it has been stalled in the standing committee. If passed the bill would create safe zones around religious institutions, provide more education and tools for schools to fight racism, ban protests at Queen’s Park that incite racist, homophobic, and other forms of hate, and prevent white supremacy groups from registering as societies.
“We do not understand why this legislation has not been passed,” Hindy said. “It is uncontroversial.”
Speaking to the fear Muslims have in Canada of openly attending mosque services, the National Council of Canadian Muslims said it’s “disheartening to see Muslim communities having to deal with the effects [of] Islamophobia again and again.”
“The community at Dar Al-Tawheed mosque in Mississauga, Ont confirmed that the suspect who attacked their space last month said he was there to ‘kill terrorists.’ It’s time to move beyond condemnations and words,” the council wrote.
The incident follows a trend of attacks on religious institutions across North America. According to a 2021 U.N. report, anti-Muslim hatred has risen “to epidemic proportions,” with Muslims facing widespread stigmatization and limits on accessing citizenship. Data from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives has found that in Canada more Muslims “have been killed in targeted hate-attacks” in the last five years than in any other Group of Seven country.
But despite the pain and fear the community feels, Hindy said that the community “will never be broken, and we refuse to be intimidated.”
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