Canadian Muslims have expressed their sadness and shock at the shooting deaths of 49 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand.
A 28-year-old Australian man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack.
Muslims making their way to the Bait Ul Islam Mosque in Vaughan, Ont., early Friday morning were still coming to terms with the horrific attack, the worst mass shooting in New Zealand history.
“When I heard this news I was devastated, it’s hard to imagine when people have gathered for prayer in a mosque somebody would have the heart to kill them in cold blood,” Lal Malik, president of the Ahmadiya Muslim community in Canada, told CP24.
“We pray that people understand that differences should not be resolved through violence.
“Islam literally means peace, a religion which promotes peace.”
With tears streaming down his cheeks, Malik said special prayers would be held Friday for those “mercilessly” killed and the injured.
Attaul Wasab, an imam at a mosque in Brampton, Ont., said the events in New Zealand were a tragedy and that the community was in a state of shock.
“People have been killed while they had gathered together to make peace with God and one another, it’s a symbol of peace whenever people go for worship,” he told CP24 Friday morning.
“We can feel the pain because we have been the victim of this kind of shooting back in Pakistan. We have families that have moved here for that reason, they could not go to their places of worship.
“People living in this peaceful country of Canada, they should feel safe and it should not stop them coming to the mosque.”
He went on to call the attack, which was live-streamed online, brutal, inhuman and an act of terror.
Muhammad Afzal Mirza, imam of the Bait Ul Islam Mosque, led Friday morning prayers there.
“When innocent people die it does not matter which country, which religion you belong to, which city you belong to, it hurts,” he told CP24.
“When a church is attacked it hurts. When a school is attacked it hurts. And now a mosque was attacked and it is painful.”
Friday prayers were offered for the peace and comfort of those who gave their lives and the families affected, the imam said.
“What does it take for an individual or individuals to be this brutal and inhumane?” Mirza added.
Canadian Muslims were targeted in a terrorist attack in January 2017 when a gunman shot dead six worshippers and injured 19 others at a Quebec City mosque.
Alexandre Bissonnette was sentenced to life in prison in February this year.
The head of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre offered condolences to the grieving families of the Christchurch shootings victims.
Boufeldja Benabdallah says his thoughts are also with the families of victims in Quebec City who may now be forced to relive the horror of their experience in January 2017.
He said people in his community are feeling indescribable pain, adding that it is time for lawmakers to legislate against extremism.
There are unconfirmed reports that the shooter was influenced by Bissonnette, a former Universite Laval student.
A now-deleted Twitter account that is believed to be linked to the accused shooter shows what appear to be three assault-rifle magazines, one of which has Bissonnette’s name on it.
Benabdallah told reporters Friday in Quebec City those who suffered through the 2017 attack are now reeling again.
« I’m convinced they are feeling a terrible pain. Imagine the children of those families here in Quebec who are hearing it on the radio and will watch their mothers cry and ask, ‘Why are you crying?’ » Benabdallah said.
« The mothers will remember the 29th, when they ran to get husbands who were killed by Alexandre Bissonnette. »
Benabdallah added that amid the mourning, it was time to speak out against extremism in all its forms.
« We must get back to work once again to explain, to tell these extremists of all stripes who politicize religion, like extremists who use race as a basis for discrimination, that we must change, » Benabdallah said.
« The world cannot continue like this. »
In Australia, Muslims and political leaders attended a Sydney mosque Friday to pray for the Christchurch shooting victims.
A heavy police presence surrounded the Lakemba mosque in Sydney’s south-west as streams of Muslims ignored the increased terror threat to attend Friday prayers.
Australian Muslims have been warned to be extra vigilant following the massacre.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Leader of the Opposition Michael Daley were among those in attendance to pay their respect.
—- With files from The Canadian Press