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Syrian restaurant subject of hate messages, death threats set to reopen

Last Updated Oct 10, 2019 at 1:54 pm EDT

Soufi's, a refugee run Syrian restaurant. CITYNEWS

A beloved refugee run Syrian restaurant which was slated to close after receiving hate messages and death threats is going to reopen Friday morning.

Owners Husam and Shahnaz Al-Soufi, who immigrated to Canada in October 2015 with their three children, posted a message on the restaurants Instagram account that the closure was prompted by numerous threats received over the past week.

A day after the owners announced their decision to close, restaurant patrons, owners of neighbouring shops and many others left messages of support and encouragement on the restaurant’s windows, speaking out publicly against hate.

Police say they have made contact with the restaurant owners and have opened a hate crime investigation.

WATCH: Husam Al-Soufi says they received messages of support from all over Canada

On Thursday Husam Al-Soufi says even though he is still fearful for the safety of his family, he did not want to be known as the business “that gave into hate.”

“Our decision to close down the restaurant came from a place of fear. In doing so, we hoped that the threat to our family and staff would dissolve and the hate messages would subside,” said Al-Soufi.

“We do not wish to set a tragic example for future immigrants and refugee business owners as the business that gave in to hate. We want to foster hope and resilience in the face of intimidation and hostility.”

The family will be taking a break from running the restaurant, however, leaving it under new management provided by Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih who says all of the staff who lost their jobs when the restaurant was abruptly shuttered this week will be rehired.

“This family has gone through a lot and I know they need some time to recover, dealing with hate is very hard. Money and business does not help when you’re dealing with hate, especially when it involves your family and your staff,” said Fakih. “We’re going to send a message that hate will never win in Canada.”

“The success of this restaurant has become a reflection of how welcoming we are as a society, how welcoming Canada is to immigrants that want to contribute.”

The family has said the threats stemmed from a September event featuring People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, which media reports said the family’s eldest son had attended.

The event became a lightning rod for criticism when video footage surfaced showing masked protesters blocking an elderly woman with a walker from entering the Sept. 29 event at Hamilton’s Mohawk College.

Hamilton police said they are investigating but have not laid any charges.

Al-Soufi declined to discuss the details of the rally on Thursday but said his son had participated in demonstrations “trying to support marginalized people” and had made mistakes, for which he learned his lesson “the hard way.”

He also said he had spoken to the elderly woman’s son and invited the family to the restaurant in an effort to make amends.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report