Hate crime unit monitoring anti-Islamic group after confrontation at Al Rashid Mosque

Police are investigating after members of an anti-Islamic group showed up at Al Rashid Mosque and confronted people arriving for Friday prayers.

According to Al Rashid spokeswoman Noor Al-Henedy, two men entered the mosque and appeared to be scouting the building.

One of the men was wearing a toque printed with the Arabic word for ‘infidel.’

She said Al Rashid’s executive director tried to speak to the men, but they walked outside, met up with at least two other men, and then got into a confrontation with community members in the mosque’s parking lot.

Al-Henedy said Friday is the mosque’s busiest day of the week, with a large number of people arriving for prayer.

“Our No. 1 priority is to ensure that they are safe,” she said, adding that they called the police right away.

Edmonton police spokeswoman Cheryl Voordenhout confirmed officers from the northwest division were called to respond to a trouble with persons complaint at the mosque in the north Edmonton neighbourhood of Lauderdale just before noon Friday. No arrests were made, but Voordenhout said the hate crimes and violent extremism unit was consulted in the investigation.

“Hate crimes unit is aware of this group and is monitoring their activities,” Voordenhout said in an email.

Late Friday, Premier Rachel Notley issued a statement broadly condemning harassment by hate groups.

“There is no room for this kind of hate in the strong, open and optimistic Alberta that inspires me & is our home,” the premier tweeted.

Opposition leader Jason Kenney also decried the behaviour.

“This is odious and has no place in our Alberta. All Albertans must be able to practice their faith in peace without threat or intimidation,” Kenney tweeted.

A Facebook page for Ty Hunt posted a video of the confrontation with mosque members. The page’s introduction describes it as “The Clann Northern Alberta Infidel Division.”

In messages over Facebook, Hunt said he was the man wearing the infidel toque inside the mosque, and said he also has the word tattooed on his neck. He denied being Islamophobic, and said he is against all religions. He said his activities are not affiliated with any specific group, though his page features a number of images related to the groups Canadian Infidels and Wolves of Odin, and he said he used to be a member of Soldiers of Odin.

He said he went inside the mosque to use the bathroom, and the reason he went to the property Friday was “to catch real Muslims walking in to possibly answer questions.”

Al Rashid was Canada’s first mosque when it was built 80 years ago, and Al Henedy said the mosque and Canadian Islamic Centre is part of local, provincial and national heritage.

“We’re proud Edmontonians, and we’ve lived for a very long time offering inter-culture and inter-faith dialogue, and we will continue to do that to ensure our community is living here in peace and giving to our city,” said Al-Henedy.