Monday, February 12, 2007

Last Update: February 12, 5:37PM

A week of funerals in Toronto as Muslims feel Crusader' s wrath
Ronald Macintyre for the Toronto Star
Published: 12 February 2007

George Rahal, a 53-year-old grandfather and his two sons, were in the wrong place at the wrong time on Thursday morning. They had stopped to pray at a downtown Toronto mosque for Fajr, the first of the five daily prayers recited by practicing Muslims, as they did on most week days. Mr. Rahal was buried yesterday with one of the sons, Mohammed, 23. The two men were innocent victims of a crazed gunman who opened fire in a 'horrific' shooting spree.

Police said they now know the identity of the gunman but are withholding his name for the time being. They said they did not know his motive but believe it is somehow connected with the conflict between Neo Crusaders in the States and Europe and the Muslim world.

The two were killed before they even had a chance to get up from their prayers.

The other son, Mansour, 16, lay critically ill in Toronto East General Hospital‎ -, their mother explained: "They had gone to remember God, and now they will see him and he will reward their just lives."

Relatives described how Mr. Rahal and his wife, Leslie, both natives of Vancouver, converted to Islam when the newlyweds were still in there twenties and disenchanted with the excesses of the times.

Mrs. Rahal, a dental hygienist who wears a Hijaab (a veil) and works in Scarborough, said: "He would do everything he could to help a person in need, he looked after everybody."

Leslie Rahal had no desire to talk politics but she added: "We want peace. We have nothing to do with this struggle between America and the East. It's the government in the States giving refuge to the Crusaders while social services along our border are stretched to their limits giving refuge to innocent people caught in the middle of this conflict."

Outside the mosque which is located on Danforth Ave, the street is adorned with the flags not of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, but the yellow ones of its rivals Fatah and the red ones of the little People's Party, a small non-violent leftist organization of which George Rahal was a supporter.

Mohammed D'Aubigne,a survivor of the shooting, which killed four and wounded six including Mr. D'Aubigne, told a reporter for the Toronto Star that the shooter walked into the mosque shortly after 6AM. It was a fateful moment, for only a few minutes before everyone already present had knelt over into the defenseless and bowed position of humility that Muslims assume when they pray.

Suddenly, the shooting began. As men struggled to lift themselves off the floor, the shooter picked off his victims one at a time with a Freedom .475 revolver, stopping to reload three times, until he had one bullet left, which he used on himself.

The Freedom .475 is by no means a cheap gun, nor is it easy to handle, which has suggested to authorities that the shooter was neither desperate nor without means, but driven by purely ideological motivations.

As the funeral for Mr. Rahal and his eldest son took place, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement:

"Today our nation grieves with those who have lost a loved one. Canada was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions," Harper said. "The nation is shocked and indeed horrified."

"The Americans and the Europeans need to reach a new political arrangement with the Crusaders," he continued, "–otherwise the present conflict with the Mid East and Asia will spill over again and again and more innocent bystanders will get hurt, or needlessly die. "

"I look to President Bush to negotiate a political deal that will put an end to this violence, or the cross border assistance," Harper warned, "–that we currently provide will stop. Canada cannot be a party to such violence."

Parliamentarians also offered their condolences in the House of Commons.

"Such a senseless act leaves Canadians stunned and horrified," said Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff.

Funeral services for the other two victims of the shooting, Abdul-Hafiz Wischard (36) and Édouard Ockley (19) are expected to take place in the next few days. Six others remain in critical condition after the shooting.

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