The attack that killed six men at a Quebec City mosque has stoked growing fears among Canadian Muslims amid calls for increased security and awareness about the power of hate speech.
"It's not just that it's unsettling, it's scary," Imam Zia Khan of the Centre for Islamic Development in Halifax said Monday.
"What's the next mosque?" he asked. "It's not a good feeling. It's a feeling of the unknown."
Khan said he's already hearing from some members of the Muslim community who fear acts of violence in the future. They want more closed-circuit cameras to step up security measures.
Imam Zia Khan is seen in the mosque at the Centre for Islamic Development in December 2016. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)
The Quebec City shooting has shocked and frightened a minority Muslim community that was already on edge, Khan said in an interview. His local mosque has been targeted in the past with graffiti and hate mail urging followers to leave the country.
Canadian Muslims have watched with dismay as mosques have been defaced across the U.S. over the last decade, he added. A mosque in Victoria, Texas, about 180 kilometres southwest of Houston, that went up in flames two days ago had been sprayed with hate graffiti and burglarized before.
"Many things have taken place but people always said: 'Oh, these are the people who are creating the problem all over the world, so who really cares?'" Khan said. "Sympathies were very little.
"But now, the problem is coming home here."
Increased security at mosques
Quebec police say they've increased security around mosques in that province.
Two suspects were arrested after six men aged 39 to 60 were killed and several others wounded during the attack late Sunday in Quebec City's Ste-Foy neighbourhood.
Last June, a pig's head was left at the entrance of the mosque, the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec.
In Toronto, Mayor John Tory said on Twitter that he has spoken with his city's police service "to make sure all steps are being taken to keep our citizens safe."
Abdul Nakua, an executive at the Muslim Association of Canada, said the Quebec City attack will spur mosques to "recalibrate" security measures with help from police. The challenge is that mosques are known as open-door, safe spaces for prayer, meditation and refuge.
"This is a wake-up call for all of us to really challenge this narrative, that political immediacy can overtake our cherished values, our constitutional rights."
"It's sort of oxymoronic to put security levels for that," Nakua said in an interview. "But it is what it is. We live in a time when safety and security is on the minds of many."
As more information about the Quebec City shooting emerges, Nakua said many are wondering the extent to which anti-Muslim rhetoric motivated the massacre.
"The election of (U.S. President Donald) Trump has been the peak of that," he said. "This is a wake-up call for all of us to really challenge this narrative, that political immediacy can overtake our cherished values, our constitutional rights.
"I'm hopeful this can be a lightning rod for something big to happen, something good."