Local leaders appeared at the Islamic Association of Sault Ste. Marie mosque on Towers Street Friday afternoon to express their condolences and show their support for the local Islamic community following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The attacks left 49 people dead and 20 seriously injured.
A man in his late 20s has been arrested and charged with murder.
“No human being with a heart would do this,” said Savr Alkiakei, Islamic Association of Sault Ste. Marie Imam, commenting on Friday’s attacks, speaking to SooToday.
“It was a shock for everyone. I can’t imagine how a person would do this. We’ve done nothing to him (Alkiakei said of the New Zealand attacker). This is Islamophobia, a stereotyping of Islam.”
“Only that man is responsible for this. We don’t generalize (against all non-Islamic people),” said mosque member Talip Jamacihan.
“I’m here to tell you as mayor of your community that I care and I’m glad that you’re safe here. Together we stand against what happened in New Zealand by promoting acceptance, tolerance, kindness and respect,” said Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano, addressing a group of worshippers at the mosque.
Provenzano drew attention to Muammar Amhalhal, 14, in attendance at the mosque Friday, who served as Mayor for a Day in 2016, in an initiative launched by Provenzano during his first year as mayor to encourage young people to get engaged in community leadership.
“He’s happy, positive and forward-looking with tremendous energy. He came to city hall and spent the day with me, he sat at my desk and opened the council meeting. The very first Mayor for a Day came from your community,” Provenzano told the audience gathered at the mosque.
“He has the potential to be the mayor of this city or any city he wants to be the mayor of in the future...in these difficult times I often find hope in our youth,” Provenzano said.
“They’re growing up in a different time and place that I believe and hope will be much more accepting. I’m hoping they will help us drive out the ignorance and hatred we’re seeing in the world.”
“I really want to let you know the harm and hate aimed at you in New Zealand will not be tolerated in this city,” Police Chief Hugh Stevenson said, adding he has ordered police patrols in the mosque area to be stepped up this weekend.
“We’re looking forward to working with you in building our country,” said Malcolm White, the city’s deputy CAO/city clerk, corporate services.
“We want to express our condolences to all of the people who have been affected by today’s loss,” Provenzano told SooToday.
“The city leadership and I thought it was important to reach out to the local Muslim community and express our solidarity, so we came by to the mosque just to stand with them and let them know they’re wanted here and welcome here as an important part of our community. We care about them.”
“It’s hard to understand these acts of violence. They’re incomprehensible. I think what’s important is that we focus on goodness and kindness and come together to help each other. I strongly believe there’s a lot more goodness in the world than hatred, and we have to focus on that and build on it,” Provenzano said.
“This was a terrorist attack, and we’re very grateful to our mayor, police chief and city clerk for coming here and supporting us. It was wonderful for them to come here,” Alkiakei said.
“We need justice, not for us, but for every human being.”