Burnaby Mosque deplores two terror suspects linked to its house of worship

“Any act of criminal violence has no place in our society.” - Muslim leader from Burnaby mosque, once attended by two known terror suspects, including the Ottawa gunman

Aasim Rashid - Masjid Al-Salaam & Education Centre - Mychaylo Prystupa
Mufti leader Aasim Rashid speaking at a Burnaby mosque where an international press conference was held Friday at the Masjid Al-Salaam & Education Centre. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

A Burnaby mosque is catching the world's attention Friday with its international press conference to deplore the actions and views of two known terror suspects that attended its house of worship, including the Ottawa gunman who shot and killed a Canadian solider before rampaging on Parliament.

“We acknowledge the fact that the perpetrator of the attacks on Wednesday did attend this mosque for some period of time,” said Mufti leader Aasim Rashid, who spoke for the Burnaby mosque, Masjid Al-Salaam and Education Centre, as well as the BC Muslim Association.

“Any act of criminal violence has no place in our society.” 

The Muslim leader was sitting shoulder to shoulder with RCMP brass at a packed press conference, attended by CNN, UK Telegraph, Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal and all manner of Canadian media.

Rashid said he barely knew the now slain gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who is believed to have shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.  He said the man prayed at the mosque over 4 months sometime in late 2011 and early 2012.  He could not verify if the suspect had visited more recently.

Rashid described him as a loner, "mentally disturbed", and someone who was difficult to approach.  He also had odd behaviours.

Masjid Al-Salaam & Education Centre - Mychaylo Prystupa

Masjid Al-Salaam & Education Centre press conference on Friday - photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

He said after Zehaf-Bibeau had come into some trouble with the law in B.C., he attempted to sleep at the mosque, gaining access inside it one evening.  When this was discovered, he was asked to leave, and the locks were changed. 

It was also revealed that Zehaf-Bibeau showed hatred towards non-Muslims.  He had told Mosque administrators about his objections to allowing non-Muslims to attend worship, and had run-ins with the staff over that issue.  Eventually, he was asked to leave the mosque permanently.

Second terror suspect also frequented the mosque

Rashid also confirmed a second terror suspect from Burnaby -- Hasibullah Yusufzai -- also attended the mosque. The RCMP charged Yusufzai in July with terrorist offences, and remains at large.

“He was asked to leave this mosque because of certain views he was expressing,” said Rashid. 

Mosque officials handed out to each journalist a copy of "Canadian Islam" in the hopes it can help de-stigmatize and educate about their faith.

They said they started a new comprehensive program to help identify those who might show signs of "self-radicalization."

Mosque received threats

Rashid also said the mosque has received threats this week, in the form of e-mails, following the Ottawa attack.  The e-mails suggested that “Muslims were not safe,” said the leader.

Yesterday, the father of Burnaby mosque-attendee David Bathurst, an acquaintance of Zehaf-Bibeau, said the Masjid Al-Salaam and Education Centre has been under the watch of CSIS for some time and had several “bad apples.”  RCMP were tight-lipped about their investigations.

Rashid explained at length today that Islam has no place for the extremism of the Ottawa gunman, and all such radicals.

“It is not a doctrine of violence.  The prophet Mohammed, like all other prophets, peace be upon them, was sent to guide people to the path of God, not frighten them away.” 

“We stand in solidarity with Canadian authorities against all terrorist movements,” stressed Rashid.

Masjid Al-Salaam & Education Centre - Mychaylo Prystupa

Press conference at  Burnay mosque "Masjid Al-Salaam & Education Centre" on Friday - photo by Mychaylo Prystupa
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