A small group of protesters converged outside of a mosque in downtown Toronto Friday afternoon calling for the banning of Islam and comparing Muslims to terrorists while people prayed inside.
Toronto police said more than a dozen people demonstrated outside the Masjid Toronto, a mosque near Dundas Street West and Chestnut Street, for an “anti-Islamic protest” just after noon Friday.
Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said the protesters marched from the Superior Court of Justice Courthouse at 361 University to the mosque while police maintained the peace nearby.
Some of the signs had hateful slogans such as “Say no to Islam,” “Ban Islam” and “Muslims are Terrorists” and “Less Islam Brings Less Terror No Islam No Terror.”
“My coworker and I came downstairs because we could hear it from the 21st floor and we saw the signs and people screaming through a megaphone about horrible, hateful things about Muslims,” said Tera Goldblatt, who works nearby and saw the protest.
“There were probably about 15 people with signs, big, big banners [and a] megaphone, screaming about all this crazy stuff.”
Estelle Amaron said she saw a video of the protest on social media and decided to drop off a card showing her support for the Muslim community.
“[I wrote] that I was very sorry for what happened today and that this was not the Canada that I live in and that we all live together and we’re all together and I just signed it as a neighbour and a friend,” Amaron said she wrote on the card.
“I just want people to just get along and just know that we’re all part of this country. Most of us are immigrants or come from immigrants and nobody’s here to say you can’t.”
Bryant Greenbaum said he was walking in the area when he saw the protest, which he described as “disgusting.”
“People are going to espouse hate, there’s nothing you can do about it. I mean there’s certain lines that can be crossed where it’s a hate crime but you espouse hate it’s unfortunate, there’s going to be people that do that,” he said.
“And it’s one thing to say you’re espousing freedom of expression a few blocks away, [but] right in front of a place of worship?”
Mohamed Abdi, a member of the mosque, said he was disappointed after hearing of the demonstration.
“It’s pretty sad and a little bit surprising since I’ve been seeing so much positive responses lately so it’s a little bit sad to hear that that happened,” he said.
“I think that people who still want to come for Friday prayer and just in general are hopefully still going to come but it could be the opposite.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a tweet that “Islamophobia has NO place in our city,” adding he had visited Masjid Toronto many times and “denounce all acts of hatred towards our Muslim citizens.”
Islamophobia has NO place in our city. I've visited Masjid Toronto many times & denounce all acts of hatred towards our Muslim citizens.— John Tory (@JohnTory) February 17, 2017
Kristyn Wong-Tam, a Toronto city councillor, echoed Tory’s statement and called the protest “awful.”
A group called Never Again Canada claimed responsibility for the protest, which they said was in “support of free speech” and was against M-103, a motion to denounce and combat Islamophobia in Canada.
“No to M-103, no to wife-beating and no to child marriage. We will never be silenced. Stop Sharia, it’s a crime in Canada,” a post on the group’s Facebook page read.
“We went to the Toronto mosque which is know to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood as well. Thanks to everyone for coming and standing with us join the movment [sic] with Sandra Solomon ..we put Canada first.”
Abdi said members of the mosque would be holding an open house on Feb. 25 to have a conversation with Muslim and non-Muslim community members and learn about the mosque.
“It’s a good time to have a conversation to see a community maybe different than yours and to meet some good positive people,” he said.