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“Unfortunate that we get affected”

Spiritual head of Oshawa mosque speaks out following weekend attacks

Mosque

The spiritual leader of the Oshawa Islamic Centre for the past four years, Imam Shakir Pandor says many members of the area’s Muslim community are used to the extra scrutiny that comes following a terrorist attack like the one in Paris on Friday. He says some people paint all Muslims “with the same brush.”

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Whenever there is an attack by Islamist terrorists somewhere in the world, Shakir Pandor, the imam of the Oshawa Islamic Centre, says his congregants pay attention.

“This is not the first time that these types of incidents have happened. I think Muslims in the community are quite familiar to the reaction to these types of matters. We’re aware that there could be some negative feedback…so most people are cognizant of that,” Pandor, the spiritual head of the Oshawa mosque, tells The Oshawa Express. “But at the same time, they’re aware of their own type of behaviour. They try to be a bit more careful in where they are, especially our female members, making sure they’re not alone in a place where they could be attacked.

“People condemn the actions of these people very strongly, no matter where they take place. It’s unfortunate that we get affected by this more than the regular person, a lot of times because we’re already condemning it but we’re made to seem like we’re part of the extremist group.”

The world was rocked by news on Friday evening that terrorists had attacked several locations in Paris, France, with ISIS – the terrorist group based out of Syria and Iraq – claiming responsibility. As of press time, authorities have confirmed that at least 129 people were killed and more than 350 wounded in seven coordinated attacks.

ISIS also claimed responsibility for an attack in Beirut, Lebanon the day before that saw at least 43 people killed and more than 200 wounded.

Pandor says that following attacks such as these, many in the Muslim community feel they get unfairly chastised simply because of their beliefs.

“We understand that there some individuals – we know that most individuals are not of that nature – but there are some individuals who will be on the other extreme. Just like the extremists on one part of the world, they’ll be extreme in their ideas in this part of the world, and they’ll take matters into their own hands. The community itself, they know that there’s a possibility of this, but they don’t expect it from the majority of people,” he says. “There might be some random individuals they might come across, so they stay alert in that regard, but they’re not suspect of others or people around them. Because most of the time, we interact with the same people, like interactions with our neighbours or the people that live around us, we’re quite familiar with them.”

While some stick to slinging hateful words, others have turned to more violent measures, including in Peterborough, where a fire was set Saturday night at the city’s lone mosque.

There was nobody hurt, but the fire and smoke at the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque late Saturday night resulted in more than $80,000 in damage. Peterborough police have determined that the fire was deliberately set.

While nothing this serious has affected the McGrigor Street mosque, Pandor says an Islamic school in the city has been vandalized in the past.

The mosque’s imam tells The Oshawa Express that he believes some people grow to dislike Muslims simply because they don’t know enough about the religion, and therefore see them as one and the same as extremist groups.

“We know that people’s lack of knowledge and not being aware is what’s going to make them do that. I guess they haven’t really researched into the matter enough…that they’re going to paint us with the same brush just because they see us as Muslims, and we are against these extreme ideas just as much as anybody else is.”

Pandor adds that while a small few turn to hate in times like these, many in the community show their support.

“A lot of times, especially us living in a very diverse society, it’s very helpful. We get a lot of people that come up and try to pacify us and console us, tell us ‘we know it’s not you guys.’”