By Naila Tahir and Clement Goh
Toronto Police officers are looking at campus security footage to see if the person or people who wrote anti-Muslim hate messages on posters outside the multi-faith prayer room can be identified.
The defaced posters were found by last Wednesday, March 20, a day before the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The prayer room is located in the basement of Humber’s H building at Lakeshore Campus.
A student saw the poster and told the faculty, who reported it to Humber College’s Public Safety Department says Rob Kilfoyle, the Director Public Safety and Emergency Management at Humber College.
Toronto Police filed a mischief report after Humber’s Public Safety department reported to police. Humber’s Public Safety department also reached out to its Centre of Human Rights and Equity who are also looking into the issue.
Humber’s security officers went to the prayer room and “removed the offending posters immediately,” says Kilfoyle.
Security also checked to see if more posters were vandalized at Humber’s Lakeshore campus. They later contacted the North Campus to see if their posters were affected.
Fortunately, Kilfoyle says no other defaced posters were found.
“It doesn’t happen very often which is a good thing,” Kilfoyle says. “We monitor graffiti and those kinds of incidents fairly regularly and we’re happy to report that it’s not a regular occurrence.”
Toronto Police and Humber’s Public Safety Department are reviewing the CCTV footage to search for the culprit or culprits.
For Kilfoyle, the latest incident reminded him of a similar some time ago. There were posters claimed it was okay to be white near the Lakeshore campus.
“Nobody wants to see this stuff,” Kilfoyle says. “Humber is a very safe – very attentive – to these kinds of issues and it’s not tolerated. It’s not something that is acceptable in our campus culture and we won’t allow it to fester.”
Toronto Police Media relations officer Caroline De Kloet says “at the time of the report, there was no suspects or witnesses.”
De Kloet says if people see such a poster, they should not touch it.
“It could be fingerprinted,” she says, adding the first thing to do is contact security who will report it to police.
Humber College Public Relations student Fariha Shahid saw the poster and took it to twitter. Sadiq Ahmed is an Imam at Baitul Hamd Mosque in Mississauga and represents the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Canada (AMJ) who saw this tweet. He was disappointed.
Fariha Shahid tweeted about the incident after she came across the posters at Lakeshore’s prayer room. Humber’s official account later replied for addressing the issue. (Twitter/@farihawrites)
“My feelings were really hurt,” he says. “I think it’s despicable, it’s disgusting. It shouldn’t have been done.”
Ahmed says when someone comes across a similar poster, they should not take the law in their own hands.
“You can inform the authorities, the principal, the dean, whomever is in charge there and they should take some steps to ensure that it does not happen again,” Ahmed says.
After the Christchurch attack in New Zealand on March 15, AMJ created a mosque campaign to invite people to tour the mosque and ask questions. Ahmed says this gives people first-hand interactions with Muslims and clear any misconceptions they may have.
The mosque campaign has been successful so far, Ahmed says. Some people enter the mosque with a negative perspective and leave the mosque with a completely different point of view.
In addition to the mosque campaign, AMJ also hosts interfaith symposiums. In these symposiums, people from different backgrounds gather to talk about their faiths. The goal is to create a better understanding of diverse religions.
Their latest interfaith gathering took place last week. Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Jews were among some of the religions represented.
“Once we get to know each other and we learn about each other’s faith, each other’s values, then we tend to love each other and live in peace and harmony,” Ahmed says.