The Ottawa Muslim Association (OMA) has received a disturbing and threatening message following the publication of a story by Sun media that falsely linked the association with terrorism.
The OMA has reported the threatening message to the Ottawa Police Service.
“The OMA has a proud history and is a widely respected community organization. We are calling on Sun Media to immediately retract its false and damaging story that has put our community members and mosque institution at risk,” said OMA President Naeem Malik.
“The Sun news story is irresponsible, yellow journalism that fans the flames of Islamophobia. No other minority community is stigmatized and unfairly attacked in this way.”
Several prominent city and community leaders, including Ottawa’s mayor and chief of police, spoke in support of the OMA and of its imam.
“The Ottawa Muslim Association is a valuable organization in our city,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “We have seen time and time again, its congregants work for the betterment of our communities in a variety of ways, including through blood clinics, food drives, and other important initiatives. Imam Samy Metwally is a prominent and respectable community leader who has been a strong proponent of interfaith dialogue and who has spoken out repeatedly to condemn violent extremism.”
“I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the Ottawa Police Service has established a strong relationship with the OMA for many years and this extends to its Imam, whom we have known to be of good character, a trusted community partner and a valuable resource,” said Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau.
“The Ottawa Mosque, and its imam, Samy Metwally, have been important community partners in our neighbourhood for years,” said Ottawa City Councillor Jeff Lieper. “I’m deeply troubled at the insinuations contained in the recent Toronto Sun article. I’d like to take this opportunity to express my support for Imam Metwally and the Ottawa Mosque. Articles such as these can do only harm by reinforcing hateful and ignorant stereotypes.”
“Many members of the United Church in Ottawa were saddened to hear that the Ottawa Mosque and Imam Metwally have been subjected to false and irresponsible allegations in a recent Toronto Sun article, but we are outraged to learn that since this article was published the Mosque has been the target of at least one hateful and directly threatening message,” said Rev. David Sherwin, Ottawa Presbytery Minister for the United Church of Canada.
Anita Vandenbeld, MP also wrote a commentary in the Ottawa Citizen in response to the media coverage of the mosque visit.
“The negative media response to our recent visit is in stark contrast to the incredible warmth and respect with which we were welcomed by Imam Samy Metwally and the worshippers, both women and men. The congregants at this mosque work for the betterment of our community in many ways, including inter-faith dialogue, blood clinics, food drives and other community-building initiatives,” said Anita Vandenbeld.
Since 2012 to 2014, hate crimes against Muslims in Canada have doubled according to Statistics Canada.
Public officials, including former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and former Conservative government minister Jason Kenney, frequently visit the OMA mosque.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI) has expressed concern about threats to Ottawa’s Muslim Community.
“We, the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI), are deeply concerned by the allegations of terror connections made against Imam Samy Metwally and the Ottawa Muslim Association (OMA) mosque published in the Sun news article by Anthony Furey. Imam Samy Metwally is an active Ottawa community member and leader of interfaith dialogue among Ottawa faith communities,” said Dr. Muhammad Iqbal Nadvi, Chair of CCI.
“The serious nature of these allegations has now resulted in threats against Metwally and the OMA. This comes at a time when the number of police reported hate crimes targeting Canadians of Muslim faith has doubled over a three year period, despite a drop in the total number of hate crimes. This week a man was charged with arson at a Hamilton Mosque.”