Prince George a safe city, Muslim community leader says

The mass shooting in New Zealand has failed to sway Mostafa Mohammad's faith in Prince George.

The chairperson of the Prince George chapter of the B.C. Muslim Associatio said Friday the events left him "shocked and sad" but feeling no less safe.

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"We are lucky in a sense that Prince George has a really deep-rooted multicultural (tradition)," Mohammad said.

"Everyone is familiar with different cultures and it's part of human nature - once you know the different cultures, then you are not threatened or you don't fear that kind of culture."

He also noted the large number of people who showed up for a vigil in January 2017 following the shootings at a mosque in Quebec. An estimated 300 people attended.

A vigil is also planned for this Saturday at city hall, 5 p.m. start. Those who attend are encouraged to "bring signs, candles and support."

"I'm sure that everyone in Prince George is as shocked as much as us," Mohammad said of the attack on two mosques in Christchurch that left at least 49 people dead. A lone gunman is believed responsible for all the deaths.

"That attack is an attack against humanity and not just Muslims as a particular group...it is very unfortunate, but it happened so we have to deal with it."

Mohammad attributed a burgeoning anti-immigrant sentiment to politicians who are "stirring up differences rather than the common things that we share as human beings."

However, he said he's received expressions of support and condolence from other groups in Prince George.

Prince George Interfaith Council chair Susan Scott called the attacks in New Zealand "horrific."

"It doesn't make sense to me and choices like this are born of hatred and mistrust," Scott added.

She said the way to prevent something similar from occurring in Prince George is to keep the dialogue going - one of the reasons the Council was formed in the first place.

"There have been conversations and a desire to keep that door open so that nobody is feeling that they need to lash out or feeling that someone has lashed out on them."

Mohammad said there is always chance that something like what happened in New Zealand could occur here but stressed the chance is very slim and no more than anywhere else. He also noted Prince George RCMP's efforts to work with the city's Muslim community.

RCMP were onsite at the mosque on Friday as the congregation assembled for prayers.

Prince George RCMP said in a statement that it is asking the public to report anything suspicious.

"Although some mosques may have an increased frontline policing presence following this event, we are not aware of any specific threats and continue to exercise increased vigilance," RCMP said. "We are reaching out to the local Muslim community to identify whether they have any specific safety or security concerns."

Anyone with information about possible criminal threats to national security is encouraged to immediately call the RCMP's National Security Information Network at 1-800-420-5805.

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