Yellowknife’s Islamic community is reacting with sadness and a call for investments in fighting terrorism, after a shooter at two New Zealand mosques killed 49 people.

Nazim Awan, chair of the Islamic Centre, says he feels heartbroken and extreme sadness for those killed. “They were innocent people who had gone for worship and were killed by a terrorist.”

Awan is clear in his characterization of the attack as terrorism, a well-planned incident he calls a massacre. “It is unacceptable and I call upon our brothers and sisters in Canadian society and our faith group leaders to condemn it and also take action.”

When asked about local community support, owner of Javaroma and Islamic centre board member Rami Kassem recalls a vigil held in Yellowknife after the Quebec mosque shooting which killed six. “We feel safe here in Canada, we feel support from the community at large in Yellowknife and Canada.”

Awan says he feels safe and confident the community of Yellowknife is supporting the local Muslim community, Awan says they are taking the situation seriously and work with the RCMP on security. “If we see something which is doubtful, we will properly investigate and stop it.”

Ramadan at the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife. Emelie Peacock photo

The centre is calling for New Zealand and all member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), of which Canada is a member, to ‘invest heavily to fight all forms of terrorism.’ 

“Police and the government, at the law enforcement level, they have to do more,” he says, adding he wants to see more community outreach, tracking signs of extremism to the source as with other crimes.

“Hopefully, this is an alarm for us as a community – Yellowknife community, Muslim community, as Canadians – to monitor everything, see any suspicious movement, to identify it and call the RCMP,” Kassem says.

At the community level, education is the solution for Awan. “This is ignorance, extreme ignorance, that can only be cured, dealt with, with education. When those people, they will meet a Muslim or come to the Islamic centre with an open heart, to learn, they will know that all of their fears are baseless.”

MyYellowknifeNow has reached out to the RCMP for comment. Shortly after afternoon prayer, a member of the Yellowknife RCMP arrived at the mosque to meet with Awan. This is the second RCMP visit to the mosque Friday, Kassem says a police officer came by the mosque earlier in the day.