A 24-year-old man has been arrested following “a possible hate-motivated crime” at a mosque in Canada Saturday morning, authorities said.
The man identified by police as Mohammad Moiz Omar had walked into the mosque brandishing a hatchet and discharging bear spray at mosque members, some of which received minor injuries as a result of the bear spray, police said.
When sprayed into a person’s face, bear spray can cause temporary loss of sight, nasal congestion, and difficulty breathing.
“Our congregants were subject to a violent attack” during Fajr, or dawn prayer, the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre said in a statement.
“Before he could inflict harm on any worshippers, several congregants bravely were able to stop him in his tracks,” the statement reads. “Our community will never be broken and we refuse to be intimidated.”
Investigators say they are “considering all possible motivations, including hate-motivation for the incident” as charges against Omar are pending.
“At this stage of the investigation, it appears to be an isolated incident,” police said.
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the attack as “incredibly disturbing” in a tweet Saturday afternoon.
“I strongly condemn this violence — which has no place in Canada — and I’m keeping the community in my thoughts today. I also want to applaud the courage of those who were there this morning,” Trudeau said.
Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, encouraged the local Muslim community “to remain calm and vigilant in the upcoming days” since it’s still “too early to speculate about the exact motives of the attacker,” he said in a series of tweets.
“I know how scary this all is, but let’s stick together and hold each other tight. Love you all,” Farooq added.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she was “shocked and angered” by what happened.
“This unprovoked attack on a place of worship is absolutely unacceptable and I strongly condemn it,” Crombie said in a statement. “My thoughts are with those injured and the City’s entire Muslim community.”
Juliette Arcodia contributed.