Canadian town council blocks mosque over 'fear'

Canadian town council blocks mosque over 'fear'

MONTREAL- A town in the Canadian province of Quebec rejected plans for a mosque after numerous residents expressed "fear" about Islam, the mayor said Friday.

"Many citizens, and they are numerous, are gripped with fear," said Michel Angers, the mayor of Shawinigan, a town of about 80,000 people in the mainly French-speaking province.

He had called a news conference to explain the city council's decision this week to block the mosque.

Angers said the refusal runs counter to his personal values, but said residents were worried about the rise of radical Islam, especially in light of two attacks on Canadian soil last year that resulted in the deaths of two unarmed soldiers.

"When people consistently listen to the media, they get the impression that terrorism is at our door," he said.

Angers noted that the mosque had initially won approval for a downtown location, about a year ago and before the attacks. The Muslim community wanted to move the facility to a more suburban area where parking is easier.

Getting the new permit was "for us, a legal formality, we didn't see this coming," said Muslim cultural centre leader Philippe Begin Garti in remarks to the Hebdo du St-Maurice local paper.

"If people are basing their views on our religion on these radical actions that we see, then I can tell you it's normal to be afraid, because we too are afraid," he said, adding that about 30 Muslim families in the region wanted "simply to have a place to pray."

At the end of January, Montreal's mayor Denis Coderre said he would block permits for a controversial imam's planned community centre, calling the Muslim religious leader "an agent of radicalization." Shawinigan is located about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of Montreal.

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