COLD LAKE –
COLD LAKE, AB — Non-Muslim Cold Lake citizens are rallying around their Muslim neighbours after the local mosque was vandalized in this northern military town.
Both front windows of the Cold Lake Mosque were broken and the words “go home” and “Canada” were spray-painted in red on the outside of the building sometime Thursday night.
“The writing hurts. This is my home, this is our home. This is the only home we have. Cold Lake is our home. Canada is our home,” said mosque member Mahmoud El-Kadri, who discovered the vandalism about 6 a.m. Friday when he arrived to pray.
A steady stream of business leaders and citizens came in through the front door of the mosque Friday offering support. Members of the mosque later gathered posters, flowers and gifts from the community and displayed them by the windows that were smashed.
A group of citizens then came together to clean up and cover the graffiti that had been painted on the mosque.
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Marilyn Maclain-Harvie was one of the first to arrive with a can of graffiti remover.
“I saw it on Facebook at work,” she said.
Soon, a small group gathered, scrubbing walls and covering the hateful message.
The group joined arms and sang “O Canada.”
El-Kadri was grateful.
“I will thank everyone. They ensured for me that this is my home,” he said, adding he had people call him from all across the country to offer their support and that made him “forget about the windows and forget about the writing.”
The mosque had a security camera but it wasn’t working when the vandalism took place.
El-Kadri said he will pray for whomever the offenders are.
“I’ll thank God that that camera was not working because I don’t want to know who did it,” he said.
“The only thing I can do is pray for him that Allah will guide him.”
Genia Leskiw, MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake, said she is “devastated” by what happened.
“It’s unbelievable. It floors me. I’m so upset by this,” she said.
Leskiw added that it’s “ridiculous” that a group as involved with the Cold Lake community as the Islamic society is would be targeted.
“It’s undemocratic and un-Canadian.”
Mosque member Ajaz Quraishi said while such hateful messages “shouldn’t happen,” he’s thankful for all the community support.
“So many people say, ‘Sorry to hear.’ People care here, that’s the main thing,” said Quraishi, who is well known in Cold Lake as a volunteer for victim’s services, chairman of Communities in Bloom, and president of the Lakeland United Way.
Cold Lake RCMP Sgt. Troy Hadland said police responded to a call of mischief at 6:30 a.m.
He said evidence at the scene was seized and sent to St. Paul RCMP for analysis.
“This type of behaviour won’t be tolerated,” he stressed.
Mayor Craig Copeland said he is “disappointed” with the vandalism.
“It’s going to paint Cold Lake in a bad light (but) that’s not what Cold Lake is about,” Copeland stressed, adding the city is now more ethnically diverse “than ever” and the mosque and its members are a part of that. He is proud of all those who offered support.
Several other locals chimed in on Facebook. Debora Moes posted a photo of the vandalized mosque.
“You do not speak for us!!! You cannot intimidate. We stand with the people of the mosque in solidarity,” she wrote.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday, six CF-18 Hornet fighter jets took off from 4 Wing Cold Lake — the country’s busiest fighter aircraft base — with sights set on Iraq. The pilots are taking part in the air combat mission, dubbed Operation IMPACT. Coalition air strikes are targeting ISIL or ISIS; it aims to degrade ISIL’s ability to carry out military operations against the people of the Republic of Iraq.
The vandalism come days after Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, were killed by radicalized Muslim men. Cirillo was killed on Wednesday in Ottawa, and Vincent was killed in Quebec days earlier.
Police have issued calls since asking Muslims who fear for their safety to contact them.
Tips can be called in to the Cold Lake RCMP at 780-594-3301. Anonymous information can also be submitted to CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222- 8477 or online at www.tipsubmit.com/start.htm.
— Karmalife (@Karmalifecanada) October 24, 2014