Tue. Jul 7th, 2020

Report considers path forward after January mosque confrontation by hate group

3 min read

Al Rashid Mosque is seen in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday, April 4, 2013. Ian Kucerak / Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun

A new report released in response to a January confrontation by a hate group of Muslims arriving at the Al Rashid Mosque to pray aims to find ways to prevent similar hate-fueled incidents in the future.

The report, released Tuesday by the Organization for the Prevention of Violence (OPV), examines the hate group associated with the Jan. 25, 2019 incident, a splinter group of the Soldiers of Odin called “the Clann.” It also compiles views from members of the mosque collected in an anonymous survey about how people felt in the aftermath of the incident and how they think anti-Islam rhetoric can best be countered.

“We wanted to get to the grassroots and hear what everyday folks within the community are thinking and feeling about these kinds of incidents,” said John McCoy, executive director of the OPV and a co-author of the report.

“It’s important that we hear from what effectively are the victims in this case.”

The report found that of the 70 survey respondents, 30 per cent described themselves as feeling shocked or surprised by the incident, while 26 per cent said they felt scared or unsafe.

Faisal Khan Suri, the president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, says he saw similar reactions from the Muslim community in the aftermath of the confrontation, given that members of a prominent hate group had approached worshippers in person.

“It was definitely an act of harassment from our perspective. It was the first time ever that a member from this very well-known group of individuals — since the Clann is a spin-off of the Soldiers of Odin — had entered into a religious area,” said Suri, whose non-profit organization focuses on advancing anti-racism efforts in the province.

The report notes that the confrontation took place only a few days before the anniversary of the 2017 shooting at a Quebec City mosque that left six dead and 19 others injured, context that McCoy said he felt was important to include.

Recommendations for preventative measures that communities, police services and legislatures can take to mitigate future hate crimes were part of the report. These included expanding data collection efforts and encouraging law enforcement agencies to take proactive instead of reactive approaches to hate crimes.

Also listed is a recommendation that city and police officials engage in environmental design assessments of religious buildings to find ways to make these spaces more secure.

“After Christchurch, after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, after what happened in El Paso, these kinds of hate incidents are seemingly increasingly common. So I think it’s important that we do these basic preventative measures at the buildings themselves.”

McCoy stressed that efforts are being made, but says a top-down approach is needed to stamp out hate groups in the province.

“I don’t think it should be construed that law enforcement and community groups are taking this seriously. They definitely are,” he said, saying that police efforts are constrained by existing hate speech legislation and the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

“We also need to examine the legislation, how it’s being applied and where the shortcomings are in terms of our ability to lay a charge based on existing legislation.”

The Clann is currently largely inactive following negative media attention and internal strife. The group still has a Facebook page where it has posted recruitment messages as recently as July 8. The group did not respond to request for comment when contacted via the Facebook page.



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