Worshippers at dawn prayer in a suburb of Toronto tackled and subdued a 24-year-old man who allegedly entered their mosque and attacked people with bear spray on Saturday, according to local police.
Peel Regional Police said the man walked into the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, and allegedly “discharged bear spray towards people in the mosque while brandishing a hatchet″ just before 7am.
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Speaking on behalf of the mosque, Nadia Hasan of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said a group of about 20 men was praying when the man sprayed them.
“Some of the men turned around and they very bravely decided that they were not going to let him attack them,″ she said. ”They tackled him to the ground and apprehended him until the police showed up.″
Mohammad Moiz Oma from the suburb of Mississauga has been arrested. Police say they are considering “all possible motivations″ for the incident, and charges are pending.
Police said the congregants received minor injuries as a result of the bear spray.
“People are obviously quite shaken up and are recovering,″ Hasan said. ”For the most part, folks are still processing what’s happened and are trying to kind of see how they can ensure that their communities remain secure.″
At this point, investigators think the incident was an isolated act and are considering hate as a possible motive, police said in a statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put out a tweet condemning the assault as “incredibly disturbing”.
“I strongly condemn this violence – which has no place in Canada – and I’m keeping the community in my thoughts today,” Trudeau wrote.
The attack on congregants at the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre is incredibly disturbing. I strongly condemn this violence – which has no place in Canada – and I’m keeping the community in my thoughts today. I also want to applaud the courage of those who were there this morning.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 19, 2022
Other public figures joined in the chorus of condemnation, including the mayor of Toronto and the Ontario provincial prime minister.
Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, said on Twitter, “There is NO place in our province for such evil and hateful acts. We must ensure those responsible are brought to justice.″
The imam of the mosque, Ibrahim Hindy, praised the courage of the worshippers who subdued the attacker.
“Our community will never be broken and we refuse to be intimidated,” he tweeted.
In June in Ontario, a man driving a pick-up truck deliberately ran over a Canadian family of Pakistani origin, killing four people. Police said it was a case of Islamophobia.
In 2017, six worshippers were shot dead and a dozen more were injured after a gunman opened fire on worshippers at a mosque in Quebec.
The shooting, which Trudeau denounced as a “terrorist attack”, at the time provoked a debate on Islamophobia in the country.