Muslim Imam Attacked in Montreal
MONTREAL -- A prominent Muslim imam was attacked outside his mosque by a knife-wielding man in what police said Saturday was a hate crime.
The assault late Friday on Said Jazeri came a week after the arrests of 17 Muslim terror suspects accused of plotting to storm Parliament, take hostages and behead the prime minister unless Canada withdrew its troops from Afghanistan.
Jazeri said it will be up to police to determine whether there was a link between the attack and recent anger directed at Muslims. After the terror arrests were made public, the windows of a Toronto mosque were smashed.
Jazeri said he and a friend were leaving the Al Qods mosque around midnight when a man carrying a butcher's knife approached, pointed the knife at them and said: "Do you want to die a martyr?"
Jazeri said he managed to call police on his cell phone when the man turned to chase his friend down the street.
The police arrived quickly and arrested the man.
The 34-year-old was charged Saturday with armed assault, uttering threats and possession of a dangerous weapon, prosecutors said.
Police spokesman Benoit Couture said investigators are considering the attack a hate crime.
"The suspect was not only running toward the guys with a weapon, he wanted to cause them harm while at the same time making hateful comments about their religion and their clothing," Couture said.
Jazeri is a well-known leader in Montreal's Muslim community. He recently helped organize a protest against the publication of controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad which originally appeared in a Danish newspaper.
Jazeri's mosque was among four Montreal mosques vandalized in the weeks following that protest.