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Canada PM Chretien Visits Mosque

September 22, 2001

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TORONTO (AP) _ Prime Minister Jean Chretien visited a mosque Friday and said he was ashamed of the increase in assaults and other hate crimes directed at Muslims after terrorist attacks in the United States.

Islamic leaders say people perceived as Muslims have been verbally and physically attacked, with a 15-year-old boy in Ottawa having been beaten unconscious by a gang of youths last weekend. Several mosques have been vandalized, and a Hindu temple in Hamilton was set afire in an apparent example of confusion.

In Parliament, a motion urging political, community and religious leaders across the country to speak out against intolerance received unanimous support Friday.

Chretien’s visit to an Ottawa mosque, accompanied by other members of Parliament, was a symbolic gesture to show the government’s support for Canada’s 600,000 Muslims.

``I want to stand by your side to condemn the acts of intolerance and hatred that have been committed against your community,″ he said.

Ottawa police say the hate crimes unit has received reports of 29 incidents since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with 17 of them considered a reaction to the hijackings and crashes that killed and injured thousands of people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

One involved a teen-age boy riding his bicycle alone who was attacked and beaten by a gang of other youths, leaving him unconscious, Ryan said. The beaten youth told police his attackers first had asked if he was Arab, and when he replied yes, they blamed him for the terrorist attacks and began hitting him, she said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Islamic Congress said it was opening 150 mosques to non-Muslim visitors after Sunday prayers to promote understanding.

Update hourly