Muslim group fears post-Paris backlash


OTTAWA – A Canadian Muslim group is advising Muslims to be vigilant about the potential for a backlash against them in the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

The executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims says there is concern in the Muslim community about being targeted.

“In our experience, following these kinds of tragedies or when Islam or Muslims are portrayed negatively in the media, we do tend to notice a spike in the number of hate crimes and hate incidents that are reported to NCCM,” Ihsaan Gardee said in an interview on Sunday.

“Obviously it’s challenging in terms of being able to draw a direct causal effect, to make a causal connection between the two, but there certainly seems to be a correlation.”

Police in Peterborough, Ont., are investigating a fire at a mosque that investigators have called arson, though they have drawn no link between the fire and Friday’s attacks in the French capital that killed at least 129 people.

Gardee won’t speculate whether there is a connection either, saying he’ll leave that up to authorities.

However, Gardee issued a statement on Sunday calling for police to treat the blaze as a potential hate crime.

Various policing agencies across Canada have already been making contact with Muslim communities in the wake of the Paris attacks, Gardee said.

“Police services have taken the initiative and reached out to various communities across the country to basically let them know that they are aware of their concerns about the potential for backlash and that they should not hesitate to contact them,” he said.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, in which police say attackers worked in three synchronized teams, wearing matching suicide vests and carrying the same weapons.

The Muslim Association of Canada, which bills itself as one of the country’s largest Muslim organizations, also issued a statement Sunday in response to the incident in Peterborough, urging “tolerance and understanding in communities across Canada.”

The statement denounced last week’s terror attacks in Paris as “a crime against all of humanity,” and said “In difficult times like these, there are often isolated incidents perpetrated by individuals that seek to exploit global events and divide Canadians.”

It adds that “As Canadians we will continue to draw on our shared values to reject this violence and send a clear message to those groups that seek to divide us.”