Nazim Awan believes over 300 people must have been crammed into the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife Monday night.

People flooded in to show support for the Muslim community following the deadly shooting that killed six men at a Quebec mosque Sunday.

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Awan is the centre’s president. He says he could not believe the amount of support Yellowknifers showed for his community.

Nazim Awan.

“It is [such a] positive feeling that although the feeling of fear will not go away very soon, this event will help,” Awan said.

Monday’s vigil was not organized by the centre, but instead by non-Muslim members of the community, something that Awan says makes him confident the members of his centre are safe in the city.

“It’s very positive,” he said.

“The best beauty of this whole thing is that it was not organized by us, it was organized by people who came. We are confident that we are safe here, but at the same time we need everybody’s help.”

Awan warns that attacks like the one in Quebec can happen anywhere, at any time, and vigilance is key to preventing them. Still, he says, he does not want the Muslim community to live in fear.

“I and my family, we will not be getting under this fear that we will [only] be safe at home,” he said.

“We will be coming [to the centre] as per our schedule, but I hope that together we can certainly prevent attacks, and we can support each other by giving at today’s event.”

Support from the North

At the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife, supporters held signs reading ‘Salam’, an Arabic word meaning peace. Similar vigils were also held in Iqaluit and Whitehorse.

Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck was one of several local politicians who spoke at the gathering. His message to Yellowknife’s Muslim community: “We love you, we support you, and we’re here for you”.

“Yellowknifers, like Canadians everywhere, were extremely sympathetic to the tragedy that took place last night and we want to show our support,” he said.

“The Muslim community in Yellowknife is a vital part of our city. They’re big contributors in a lot of ways to the community, and so we want to make sure that that message is made loud and clear.”

Matthew Martin.

Matthew Martin put the event together on Facebook. He is not a member of the centre nor does he know anyone who is, but he says it was something he just had to do.

“I think it’s every citizen’s duty to stand up when there’s hatred, and to make a stand that it’s not okay to have this kind of hate,” he said.

“It’s time that we all come together as Canadians, as citizens, to stand up against the unacceptable hatred that’s been going around, not just against Muslims but anyone.”

As a member of the LGBTQA+ community, Martin says if he can’t stand for his peers when they face discrimination, then how can he expect anyone to stand up for him.

“If I don’t stand up for my neighbours when they’re being persecuted then no one’s going to stand up for me,” he said.

“I think it’s really important that we stand together in solidarity with each other so we can stamp out the hate.”

‘It’s very warm’

Rami Kassem has been a member of the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife for two years. As he listened to people talking and showing their support, he says he began to tear up.

Rami Kassem.

“I didn’t imagine that with such short notice, so many people would come to support us,” he said.

“It’s very warm. It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t describe it, I never even thought there was going to be this many people. It gives me more hope and more dreams that we’re going to a better future at least in Yellowknife.”

For Kassem, it’s important for this kind of support to continue in both Yellowknife and around the world, especially in the wake of Quebec’s shooting.

“We all got hurt as Muslims, and we all hurt as Canadians,” he said.

“We are one body: Muslim, Christian, Jew, black, white, doesn’t matter where you come from, we are one body as Canadians and one part of the body got hurt and the rest of the body is supporting it and it’s very important to keep it going.”