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Growing up Muslim in Prince George

Lila Monsour speaks at a vigil at City Hall for Muslims killed in Christchurch, New Zealand. Bill Phillips photo
Lila Mansour speaks at a vigil at City Hall for Muslims killed in Christchurch, New Zealand. Bill Phillips photo

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

Lila Mansour grew up Muslim in Prince George.

She is grateful for the greater community that supported her, allowing her to grow up without fearing that who she is might make her a target.

“Growing up in Prince George, I’ve never been afraid to be a Muslim, I’ve never been afraid to show that I’m Muslim, I’ve never been afraid to say that I’m Muslim,” she told a crowd of about 100 people at vigil at City Hall for Muslims killed last week in Christchurch, New Zealand. “I’m very thankful for that. I’m very thankful for the wonderful Prince George community that has always supported me. I’m very fortunate.”

Members of the community, including Prince George-Valemount Shirley Bond and Mayor Lyn Hall who also spoke, came out to show support for the victims and their families and the Muslim community in Prince George. Last week 50 Muslims were killed and more injured in a shooting at two mosques in New Zealand.

“Thank you to those of you who are thinking of us,” said Mansour. “It means so much, having grown up in Prince George, to see your support. It gives me strength.”

She said that whoever kills an innocent person, is as if they’ve killed all of humanity, regardless of their faith. She said that Muslims believe that those who die unjustly go to paradise.

“I can’t imagine what (the family members) are feeling, or what they’re going through … the shock,” she said. “None of us go to our mosque for our Friday prayer, or any day of the week, thinking that we might not come home that day. I’m sure that you, when you go to your place of worship, think that you might not come home that day.”

It was just two years ago a similar vigil was held on City Hall steps two years ago as community members gathered in support of those killed in a shooting at a Quebec mosque.

“It’s all too real, too soon,” said Mansour. “I can’t believe that I’m back here again two years later.”

She goes to the mosque regularly and, she says, she says feels safe doing so.

“Unfortunately, Islamophobia is a real problem,” she said. “It’s very, very real. Racism and discrimination are very real. Hatred and extremism are present in the world around us. These things can’t be ignored. No city is immune to this, not even Prince George.”

“We must look past our differences and look at the things that connect us and bring us together. Our biggest fear is not of terror but of ignorance.”

The vigil was organized by the South Asian Student Association at UNBC.

“On March 15, 2019, a white supremacist terrorist mercilessly murdered more than 40 Muslims in Christchurch,” said Fizza Rashid, co-president of the association. “This individual recorded, and live-streamed the massacre, and published a white supremacist manifesto, quoting both the U.S. Constitution and President Donald Trump.”

Many right-wing politicians promote racist and xenophobic rhetoric, which creates fear, she said.

“Terrorism has no religion,” Rashid said.