‘Our reaction is very important:’ Mosque, rabbi unite to condemn hateful attacks

By Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

After a man allegedly yelled slurs and threw a rock at Muslims standing outside a Toronto mosque last week, a local rabbi felt the need to send over a message expressing sympathy. 

Rabbi Shaanan Scherer says it was important for him to contact the Toronto Islamic Centre and speak up against the attack, particularly as the Israel-Hamas war has led to a rise in aggression and violence against Muslim and Jewish communities across Canada. 

Scherer — who teaches at a local Jewish school that has also been the subject of two bomb threats in recent days — says he was disgusted that somebody would attack innocent Muslims.

RELATED: Toronto seeing rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes amid Israel-Hamas war, police chief says

Police arrested and charged a 28-year-old man in the incident outside the mosque.

Investigators charged the same man in separate attacks on a Muslim taxi driver and a woman wearing a hijab, where both victims were allegedly sprayed in the face with an unknown substance. 

The city has also seen several cases of antisemitism, including businesses that have been targeted. 

Shaffni Nalir, the general manager of the Toronto Islamic Centre, says Scherer’s support and the messages of unity he’s received from other rabbis, imams, church leaders and community members have meant a lot as tensions rise amid the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. 

He says everyone needs to stand up for justice, irrespective of who is the one committing the crime.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia “really scary.”

Across Canada, various police forces have said they have increased their presence around religious institutions in response to the spike in violence.

In Montreal, gunshots were fired at two Jewish schools and a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue, all in a one-week period. 

Rabbi Ed Elkin, president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis and spiritual leader at Toronto’s First Narayever Congregation, says the Israel-Hamas war has also exposed the challenges of interfaith relationships when it comes to the conflict in the Middle East. 

He calls fostering close interfaith ties the right thing to do, because — quote — like everybody else, we need friends and allies.”

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