Pakistan mosque blast must not be normalized, Windsor community leaders urge

Following a suicide bomb blast that killed more than 100 people in a mosque in Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar, community leaders in Windsor-Essex are reminding people these attacks are rare and should not be simply dismissed as a byproduct of living in that part of the world.

Police have made several arrests but are still investigating how exactly a suicide bomber reached the mosque which sits inside a highly-fortified compound.

Officials say worshipers were praying when the bomber set off his explosive vest, killing more than 100 people and injuring at least 225 others.

Rescuers have spent the last few days recovering bodies and removing mounds of debris from a collapsed roof. The attack is the deadliest Peshawar has seen in a decade.

“Anytime attacks of this nature happen, there’s always shock, extreme sadness and confusion … and because this has happened in a mosque, it takes it to that next level,” said Widad Mezahi of the Windsor Islamic Association.

The association operates out of the Windsor Mosque on Northwood Street. On any given week, hundreds of people pass through its doors to pray — and many have family ties to Pakistan.

Mezahi said she has seen how Windsor’s Pakistani and Muslim communities are mourning the losses of those killed in Peshawar.

But she worries people outside of those communities who are not directly affected may dismiss the attack as something that is commonplace for the region.

“A lot of people bring up the issue of race in that sometimes people with darker skin color just don’t get the same amount of empathy or sympathy,” said Mezahi, referring to the public’s response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Other times people say, ‘that kind of stuff happens all the time over there,’ which is not true.”

Mezahi added many people within the Muslim community feel that whenever chaos erupts in a Muslim-majority country, it fails to capture headlines and people’s attention in the way that other world conflicts have done.

“It is something that we need to think about within ourselves,” she said. “Why haven’t we paid as much attention to other regions of the world? Why haven’t we given as much care and attention to parts of the world where has this happened?”

Others such as Mohsin Naqvi, secretary general for the group Pakistan Canada Association Windsor, agree.

Mohsin Naqvi, secretary general for Pakistan Canada Association Windsor, says Monday’s suicide bombing in Peshawar ‘should have sent shockwaves around the world.’ Pictured in Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)

He said Windsor is home to many families with direct ties to Peshawar who have been struggling to make contact back home.

Many people, Naqvi added, may not realize Pakistan has been a relatively peaceful country for the past six years and has been a long time ally of the West.

“A blast of this magnitude should have sent shockwaves around the world,” said Naqvi, adding people tend to pay more attention to events in NATO-involved countries.

“This can happen anywhere in the world and we should be prepared to support all efforts to eradicate it.”

Naqvi is calling for the Canadian government to “play their role” in supporting Pakistan’s government and military by supporting them in the global fight against terrorism.

“Ask your elected member of Parliament in Ottawa how to support the Pakistani government in eradicating terrorism because, in the end, Canada will be the beneficiary of a peaceful world,” he said.

“And please have sympathy for the families because they are collateral damage that comes with the blast. Keep them in your prayers.”

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