Vigil to support Muslim community


They will fight hate with peace. Ignorance with education.

Tuesday night a candlelight vigil will be held at Masjid An-Noor, the St. Catharines mosque, in honour of the victims of the Quebec City shootings.

Six people died, even more were injured, after a shooting Sunday night during evening prayers at a mosque in the Quebec capital. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard have called the shootings a terrorist attack.

The horror and injustice should weigh on everyone’s conscience, says Karrie Porter, a community organizer of the newly reborn Niagara Anti-Racism Coalition, which is organizing Tuesday’s walk along with the Muslim community.

People from all faiths will gather at St. Catharines City Hall for 5:30 p.m., and will walk together to the mosque on Geneva Street.

“The message is one of hope and solidarity and community,” Porter says. “People aren’t feeling safe. And we’re not going to stand for this.

“It should never, ever happen again,” says Porter.

“The situation is dire. People died when they were praying.”

The vigil will speak to the strength and connectedness of an entire community, both Muslim and non-Muslim, says Zakia Hamdani, a member of the St. Catharines mosque.

“It will show that not only are we thinking of those victims, but we’re not alone. We’re in this together,” she says.

“Our community needs to see that there are people from other faiths and backgrounds standing behind them.

“We are not going to live in fear.

“It’s not only a Muslim issue, it’s a humanity issue.”

There are some 350 Muslim families in St. Catharines.

On Wednesday, people are invited back to the St. Catharines mosque for World Hijab Day, an event that had already been planned prior to the Quebec shootings. Women can try on a head scarf and take one away as a gift. It’s being organized for the second consecutive year by the Qamer Foundation and the Islamic Society of St Catharines as a way to educate and strengthen relationships with the community, says Bilkis Al Haddad, a mosque member.

Last year, so many women showed up, organizers had to buy more scarves, she says. They gave away about 250 hijabs.

“It was a blessing, to see all different faiths come forward,” she says.

The event will still go ahead, despite an increased uneasiness about personal safety.

“I’m heartbroken,” Al Haddad says. “It’s the pain of why hate is being spread, instead of peace.

“I did not expect that it would be somewhere where somebody is in their home place, bowing down to their lord and praying, not for him or herself, but for everybody.”

And yet, once again, people of Islamic faith will fight the violence against them with peace.

“Bringing the humanity together,” says Al Haddad. “It’s the only way to do it.”

On Saturday, a nationwide campaign called Islam Understood comes to St. Catharines. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is reaching out to some 40 communities across Canada, to share teachings of the Islamic faith in order to dispel myths that lead to Islamophobia and hate crimes, says Imam Hanan Sobhi.

The campaign — it recently stopped in Fort Erie — will hold 150 open houses, he says.

Indeed, it takes everyone to come together to make change, says Porter.

“We need to speak out. These are our friends. These are our neighbours,” she says.

“Niagara needs to stand up together.

“Not only are we compassionate. We need to stand up for justice.”

Candlelight vigil


5:30 p.m. Meet at St. Catharines City Hall, then walk to the mosque on Geneva Street.

World Hijab Day


4 p.m. to 8 p.m., St. Catharines mosque

Try on a hijab and learn about the importance of the Muslim head scarf. Bazaar, bake sale and photo booth.

Islam Understood


Noon to 4 p.m., St. Catharines downtown library

A nationwide campaign to hold 150 open houses across Canada, in an attempt to remove misunderstandings about Islam, create bridges of peace and give people the opportunity to meet a Muslim.

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